Cervical spine: Causes, symptoms and treatment

Have you been experiencing pain in your neck and shoulder area? Does it feel like your head is too heavy for your shoulders or there is an unbearable stiffness in your neck? It is highly possible that you are suffering from cervical spondylosis or cervical spine or more commonly known as neck cervical. Here’s all you need to know about this condition.

What is the cervical spine?

Health Shots reached out to Dr Sushma Singh, Consultant Physiotherapist at Masina Hospital, to understand more about this condition. She says, “Cervical spine is made up of vertebra that extends from skull to C7 vertebrae (upper torso) ligaments and muscles present in the cervical region provides the stability and allow range of motion (ROM). Any abnormalities, inflammation or any injury can lead to neck pain.”

cervical spine
Pain in neck can be a symptom of cervical spine. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

As the pain is experienced in the first seven bones of the spine, which are present in the neck region, people tend to experience pain and stiffness in the neck and shoulders instead of the whole spine. That is why it is also commonly called neck cervical.

Symptoms of cervical spine

People with cervical spine have often described the pain as a persistent, stabbing or burning pain in the neck and shoulder region. People also complain about stiffness and tightening in the cervical muscles. Dr Singh says that the two major symptoms are:

1. Stiff Neck: This kind of pain can reduce ROM and it feels like the neck is stiff or stuck.

cervical spine neck stiffness
Neck stiffness can be troublesome! Image courtesy: Shutterstock

2. Pain on movement: Pain is often felt on movement like if you move your neck forward or upward or turn it side to side.

Neck pain can interfere with daily activities and can reduce the quality of life, if left untreated. In most cases, neck pain is not serious and can be relieved within a few days. However, in some cases, neck pain can indicate serious injury which requires doctor’s consultation. If symptoms persist for more than a week, consult a doctor and they will perform investigations like x-ray, MRI, CTScan, etc.

But if your condition is not that severe then you can opt for at-home physiotherapy or try some remedies at home yourself as suggested by Dr Singh.

Here’s how to relieve neck pain caused by cervical spain:

1. Hot pack and cold therapy also known as cryotherapy can be tried depending on the severity of your pain. In this therapy liquid nitrogen or ice packs are used to freeze and destroy the tissue that is causing the trouble.

2. Traction is another physiotherapy technique used to stretch soft tissues and separate joint surfaces or bone fragments using a pulling force which helps in relieving the pain.

3. Strengthening exercises that will help you stretch the muscles in your neck and shoulders is the easiest way to help with the pain. So, you can try exercises like neck rotation, shoulder rolls, neck flexion, etc.

neck exercises
Neck stretches will help you relax! Image courtesy: Nishtha Bijlani

4. IFT/TENS: Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) and interferential therapy (IFT) have been a regular line of treatment for various types of acute and chronic pain. These are physiotherapy treatments that can be of huge help in relieving the neck pain.

5. Practicing good posture is a prevention technique that will prevent you from suffering from such a condition. Most of us have jobs which require us to be sitting for long hours, so it is essential that we have a good posture which entails a straight back and relaxed shoulders.


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