Chronic Neck Pain

What is it/what happens to cause this issue?

Chronic neck pain is one of the most common orthopedic complaints across all ages. This can be caused by a vast number of things ranging from poor posture to osteoarthritis. Aside from the obvious neck pain, symptoms of chronic neck pain include pain that gets worse by your head being in one position for long periods, tightness or spasms in the neck muscles, diminishing motility of the head, and headaches. Usually, neck pain can be treated at home if the pain gradually subsides. You should immediately contact your doctor if you are experiencing pain that is severe and persistent for days, spreads down the arms and legs, and is accompanied by numbness, weakness, or tingling.

Because your neck is so flexible and is constantly supporting the weight of your head, it is vulnerable to a wide variety of injuries that cause pain and restrict your range of motion. These pain causes include:

Muscle strains- caused by overuse from neck straining activities like hunching over your computer, twisting your neck to talk on the phone, and even reading in bed.

Worn joints- caused by natural wear with age. This can lead to osteoarthritis, which causes the cartilage cushioning between your bones to deteriorate. This leads to your body forming bone sports that decrease your joint motion and cause pain.

Compressed nerves- any sort of herniated disk or bone spur that is located on the vertebrae of your neck can end up pressing against the nerves branching from the spinal cord, and cause pain.

Disease- some diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, or meningitis can cause neck pain as a side effect.

Sudden injuries- rear-end auto accidents can often end up in a whiplash injury, which jerks the head backward then swiftly forward, ultimately straining the soft tissues supporting the neck.

What does a typical treatment look like?

Usually, neck pain responds well to self-care measures within two or three weeks. This can include over the counter pain medications. More serious neck pain will highly benefit from assigned physical therapy as well as stronger pain medicine, muscle relaxants, and tricyclic antidepressants also used for pain relief.

Therapy is one of the most commonly used treatments for neck pain, and includes learning correct posture, neck strengthening exercises, and even getting a better alignment. Your physical therapist may use heat, ice, electrical stimulation, and other methods to help ease pain, and prevent it from happening again.

Surgery is rarely ever needed for neck pain, although it might be an effective option for relieving issues with nerve root or spinal cord compression.

Is there a recovery time before it’s gone or does it have lingering effects?

The recovery of chronic neck pain largely depends on the extensity of the injury. Some neck pain symptoms can go away within a matter of weeks, while others, especially instances in which surgery is required can take months for complete recovery.

What are the consequences of not treating it?

It is important to treat any of these symptoms with either self-care or more intensive measures. Ignoring this will allow the pain to continue, and possibly lead to irreversible damage in your neck, which could eventually become a disability.

Arthritis

What is it/what happens to cause this issue?

Arthritis is painful inflammation and stiffness of the joints that is generally degenerative. There are various kinds of arthritis, and each comes with its own set of symptoms. One type, osteoarthritis includes joint pain and increasing stiffness that gradually develops by a reduction in the regular amount of cartilage tissue through the normal wear and tear of life. Rheumatoid arthritis, on the other hand, includes painful swelling, inflammation, stiffness in the extremities such as fingers, arm, legs, and wrists that occur in the same joints on both sides of the body. This is caused by the body’s immune system attacking the connective tissues of the body, which leads to joint inflammation, pain, and ultimate degeneration of the joint tissue.

While there is no single cause of arthritis, there are several factors that can add up to it. This can include injuries, abnormal metabolism, genes, infections, and immune system dysfunctions Usually, most arthritis cases are caused by a combination of these factors working together, while less common cases have no apparent cause, and are unpredictable.

What does a typical treatment look like?

The focus of arthritis treatment is to control pain, minimize any existing joint damage, and improve/maintain function and quality of life. This can include medication, physical therapy, splints, weight loss if the person is overweight, surgery, and self-management education. It is important to actively participate in the upkeep of arthritis to ensure the best quality of life. Self-management activities include:

-having an arthritis management strategy

-staying physically active

-maintaining a healthy weight

-regularly checking up with the doctor

-making it a habit to protect joints from unnecessary stress

Depending on the type of arthritis that you have, treatment options will vary. Commonly used arthritis medications include:

Analgesics: reduce pain, but have no effect on inflammation.

-Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: reduce both pain and inflammation.

-Counterirritants: usually a sort of cream or ointment that contains menthol, or capsaicin (found in spicy hot peppers). Patients have found that rubbing these preparations on the skin over a painful joint can help modulate the pain signals coming from the joint and ultimately lessen the existing pain.

-Corticosteroids: reduces inflammation and suppresses the immune system.

Is there a recovery time before it’s gone or does it have lingering effects?

Although living with arthritis can make carrying out simple, everyday tasks challenging, and painful, there are many things you can do to relieve symptoms and maintain a high quality of life. It is very important to consult your doctor to create a customized plan of action for the specific treatment your case needs. This will ensure that you are giving your body everything it needs to keep up with you, instead of holding you back. No matter the diagnosis, following a healthy lifestyle, and having a plan of action will ensure a better quality of life.

What are the consequences of not treating it?

It is important to treat any of these symptoms to prevent arthritis from getting worse. Ignoring this could lead to irreversible damage in your joints, allowing for further deterioration, which can ultimately lead to a disability.

Ataxia

What is it/what happens to cause this issue?

Ataxia is a lack of muscle control during voluntary movements, like picking up an object, or walking. Ataxia can be a sign of an underlying condition, and can affect several motor skills including movement, speech, eye movement, and swallowing. Ataxia that is persistent can result from damage to the cerebellum, which controls muscle coordination. Head trauma, stroke, tumors, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, alcohol abuse, inherited defective genes, vitamin E or B-12 deficiencies, chickenpox, and toxic reactions can all cause Ataxia. Sometimes, however, no specific cause can be found. This is called Sporadic Degenerative Ataxia, and can take a number of forms which include multiple system atrophy, progressive, degenerative disorder. This may result in poor coordination, unsteady walk, change in speech, difficulty with fine motor tasks like writing, or buttoning a shirt, involuntary eye movement, and difficulty swallowing.  Be sure to see a doctor if you lose your balance, lose muscle coordination in a hand, arm, or leg, have difficulty walking, slur your speech, and find it difficult to swallow.

What does a typical treatment look like?

There is no existing treatment that is made specifically for Ataxia. In many of the cases, treating the underlying cause ends up resolving the ataxia. However, when ataxia results from chickenpox or another viral infection, it usually resolves by itself over time with no need for treatment. Your doctor may recommend adaptive devices or therapies to help recover from your ataxia.

When ataxia is caused by conditions like multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy, it may not be treatable. TO help with the existing symptoms, your doctor may be able to recommend adaptive devices which include canes or walkers, modified utensils, and communication aids. These will go far in helping you achieve a higher quality of life.

Another thing that helps is therapy. Physical therapy helps build strength and enhances your existing mobility abilities. By following a routine of prescribed exercises, the chances of increasing motility are great. Although it is not promised that motor skills will return to their original abilities, they can be much improved from the initial starting point. Occupational therapy helps improve your ability to do daily living tasks like feeding yourself. The ability to do these activities will largely allow you to keep a sense of independence. Speech therapy may also be recommended to help improve speech and help in swallowing.

Is there a recovery time before it’s gone or does it have lingering effects?

Recovery from Ataxia largely depends on the primary cause of it. In some cases, Ataxia will simply go away on its own, with the initial motor skills returning to their original abilities. In other cases, it is a permanent change to the existing motor skills. However, with treatment, and dedicated physical therapy, it is very possible to regain some mobility, keep a sense of independence, and live a largely fulfilling life.

What are the consequences of not treating it?

It is very important to treat any of these symptoms and follow a treatment plan to gain back mobility. Ignoring this could lead to continuous degeneration of your motor skills, and ultimately lead to a disability.