4 Ways to Overcome Chronic Neck Pain Without Surgery

Neck pain is one of the top five chronic pain conditions causing disability worldwide (1). Neck pain is on the rise and has a large impact on a person’s overall well being and quality of life. Oftentimes, practitioners jump straight to addictive pain medications, or, worse yet, irreversible surgery, without considering alternative options. In fact, over 500,000 spinal fusion surgeries and 400,000 discectomies are performed every year for people who are dealing with chronic neck pain due to disc degeneration alone. Sometimes surgery is needed, but research has found that many of these invasive neck surgeries are unnecessary and only lead to additional surgeries in the future. 

Common Causes of Neck Pain include:

  • Whiplash: This condition can occur when any force is applied to the head or neck, such as when you are involved in a car accident, fall, or full-contact sports injury. A whiplash can cause injury to the neck ligaments, joints, or discs, which in turn can cause neck muscles to spasm. Common signs of whiplash include pain and stiffness, loss of range of motion, and headaches that start at the base of your skull. 
  • Injury to the discs: Spinal discs are the jelly-like substance that acts as the spine’s shock absorbers between vertebrates. Wear and tear, injury or pressure on these discs can also lead to disc herniations, disc tears, and increased pressure on the nerves. These nerves radiate from the spinal cord within the cervical spine and travel down the length of the arms. When these nerves become irritated, the pain and loss of function can affect the arms and hands.
  • Spinal stenosis: The narrowing of the spaces where the nerves exit the spine is termed spinal stenosis. As cervical spine degeneration worsens, the amount of pressure on the nerves increases resulting in an increase of pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in the upper and sometimes lower limbs. When there is worsening weakness in the setting of severe stenosis, this is the type of situation that may actually require surgery. 
  • Arthritis: It is common for joints in the neck to develop wear and tear degeneration as we get older, which is called osteoarthritis. This does not necessarily equal pain, but can get aggravated due to injury, repetitive stress, or poor ergonomics. Common symptoms include stiffness, decreased range of motion, or neck pain that can travel into the head, shoulders or upper back. 

Although surgery can sometimes be absolutely necessary, surgery is a one way street and you may not need to go under the knife to ease your neck pain. There are several effective alternative treatments that can help you avoid surgery. We’ve compiled a list of 4 ways to overcome chronic neck pain without surgery. 

1. Take time to rest… but not too much

After an acute injury that just took place, taking a couple days to rest can help settle down your pain. Before jumping straight into an irreversible surgery, give your neck time to recover naturally. But believe it or not, resting too much or completely immobilizing your neck can actually do more harm than good! If we don’t move at all because we’re scared of pain, the body can become fearful of any movement to the point that even normal movement causes pain. After resting initially, a gradual increase back to activity can make a big impact. We actually need to return to movement in order for the body to learn that not all movement causes pain, and not all pain equals damage. 

2. Adjust your exercise

The first step to addressing neck pain is to adjust your biomechanics. If you can get the muscles moving properly, muscles and nerves will work as they should and this alone can help alleviate pain. As you rewire the biomechanics, avoid high-impact exercises or sports like jogging, aerobics, and mountain biking that jar your neck. Switch to low impact exercises and limit your overhead work. By simply switching up your exercise regime you can help improve your cervical disc and manage your pain. Adjusting exercises based on your specific condition can be done under the guidance of a physical therapist (2). 

3. Seek a professional second opinion

Neck surgery oftentimes can and should be avoided. It is worth the time to seek out a second opinion for the best long term outcome. Talk with Dr. Patel and his team at The Patel Center for Functional Regeneration. He has years of expertise in treating patients with non-surgical treatments. Dr. Patel will give you his objective and educated advice on the state of your neck and spine. So, you know whether or not surgery is truly necessary for you at this time.

4. Consider non-surgical treatments

There are some effective non-surgical treatments that can help you avoid neck surgery. 

  • Physical therapy: Improving neck health through strength training, increasing flexibility, and learning ways to maintain proper posture can reduce neck pain caused by various conditions. A certified therapist can teach you the proper ways to bend and lift, which will help you avoid further injury.
  • Acupuncture: This treatment can help ease your neck and back pain, tension, and reduce your overall stress levels.
  • Osteopathic, Chiropractic, and other manual therapies: Manual manipulation of the neck can help improve symptoms (3), but can also be very dangerous. When used correctly and judiciously, these treatments can help decrease pain and improve muscle tension. However, aggressive, excessive, repetitive, or unfocused “cracking” manipulation can cause a situation to become significantly worse.
  • Advanced ultrasound guided injections: Orthobiologic treatments using your body’s own blood growth factors and cells can help improve the biology of your neck, decrease inflammation and pain, and improve function. Dr. Patel uses a comprehensive approach to address all pain generators and functional components of the neck (4). For the right candidate, this is an effective alternative to surgery for people who are experiencing chronic neck pain.

Discover your non-surgical neck surgery alternative options

You may not need to go under the knife to ease your neck pain. There are several effective alternative treatments that can help you avoid surgery. Talk to our experienced team at The Patel Center for Functional Regeneration in Los Angeles and Orange County about your options for non-surgical neck treatments. Dr. Patel’s top priority is to provide every patient with exceptional care and give patients the most thorough evaluation and customized treatment plan. For more information contact Dr. Patel’s patient concierge team at info@fxregencenter.com.

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