Neck Pain can leave lingering pain and disability. Dr. Rebecca Kerr of the California Pain Institute offers a variety of treatments for neck pain to residents of Torrance and Los Angeles.
What Is Neck Pain?
Neck pain can be caused by many things. It can be generated from injuries including sports injuries, falls at home, repetitive heavy lifting or overhead reaching, among other activities. A common injury to the neck is Whiplash. Whiplash occurs when the head moves rapidly back and forth on the neck. Sometimes called a neck strain or sprain, neither of those terms is really accurate. The head — which weighs about 12 pounds in an adult — can stretch and tear muscles, ligaments and tendons in the neck. Neck Injury or Whiplash may also damage the discs, and joints between the vertebrae resulting in pain. Rear-end automobile accidents, sports injuries and head trauma may all result in whiplash. Be advised that Dr. Kerr treats neck pain from many causes, but does NOT take on auto accident, worker’s compensation, or personal injury cases. If one of these are the cause of the pain, you will have to seek treatment elsewhere.
Can Neck Injury or Whiplash Affect the Brain?
Neck Injury or Whiplash may also affect the brain because the injury causes the brain to slam into the skull. The impact may damage brain structures and/or cause bleeding and bruising inside the brain. In addition to neck pain, the patient may have a minor traumatic brain injury (MTBI). An MTBI may result in a temporary loss of consciousness after the accident and can cause symptoms like headaches and visual disturbances, and affect the memory and thought processes. Neck Injury or Whiplash symptoms don’t always appear immediately after the accident, but may surface several weeks later. In these cases, the patient must also be under the care of a neurologist.
What Causes Chronic Pain After Neck Injury or Whiplash?
Scientists have only recently discovered the primary source of chronic pain after a neck or whiplash injury. The bones (vertebrae) in the neck are connected with what are called facet joints. These joints allow the neck to move in many directions. The cervical zygapophysial joints, or facet joints of the neck, have now been identified as the source of about half of all chronic pain problems after a neck or whiplash injury. In addition, muscle tear and bruising, bleeding and fractures can cause post-whiplash or neck pain and headache.
How Is Neck Injury or Whiplash Treated?
The initial treatment of neck injury or whiplash is similar to that of any musculoskeletal injury. Rest and ice or heat (depending on which the patient finds most helpful), or sometimes both ice and heat, are usually used initially. Muscle relaxants and pain medications may be prescribed, although ideally they will only be used for a short term. Massage therapy and acupuncture are helpful for some patients. The pain specialist can inject the facet joints with local anesthetic and steroid medications. If this is effective, then radiofrequency rhizotomy may be indicated. Sometimes surgery is required if the facet joints are badly damaged.