Neck pain is not only uncomfortable, but it could be a sign of an underlying condition that needs to be addressed: herniated disc disease, arthritis, spinal stenosis, and more. If you are experiencing acute or chronic neck pain, then it might be time to visit a specialist for a diagnosis and treatment plan.
The truth is that you don’t have to live with neck pain that never goes away. An orthopedic specialist has a variety of methods for diagnosing the root cause and helping with a personalized treatment for relief.
Orthopedists are trained to help with a variety of conditions involving the musculoskeletal system. Neck pain often falls into this category since it can include problems with joints, muscles, ligaments, nerves, and bones.
Talk to an Orthopedic Doctor If At-Home Remedies Aren’t Enough
Mild or moderate neck pain can often be treated at home, using methods such as:
- Heat and Ice: Hot and cold applications can alleviate pain, reduce swelling, and provide immediate relief. For example, cold compresses constrict the blood vessels to reduce inflammation and reduce pain levels. Hot compresses can also be effective for neck pain relief because they increase circulation, and the heat is soothing for sore muscles.
- Lifestyle Adjustments: Pay attention to activities that might be affecting your neck pain. You might need a new pillow or a change in your sleeping position. Posture is another big offender, especially if you spend a lot of time at the computer.
- Pain Medications: When the pain flares up, then it might be helpful to pop a pill. Over-the-counter medications are suitable for mild or moderate pain, including ibuprofen or naproxen, which help reduce the pain and decrease inflammation simultaneously.
If you use these at-home neck pain treatments for a few days and still aren’t finding relief, it might be time to visit an orthopedic doctor. Reach out to our team at Orthopedic Associates any time to learn more about your treatment options.
Neck Pain Treatments from an Orthopedic Specialist
What should you expect when you schedule a consultation with an orthopedic doctor? First, rest assured that you are in good hands! Our approach is to determine the exact diagnosis, then offer a unique treatment plan to help you find relief.
Many orthopedic doctors offer surgical treatment options. But just because you are meeting with a surgeon doesn’t necessarily mean that surgery will be recommended.
The truth is that we always start with minimally-invasive treatments first. Then, if these minimal or moderate treatments aren’t providing the desired results, we can look at more intensive treatments such as surgery.
Here are some of the most common treatments recommended by orthopedic specialists:
- Physical Therapy: Exercises that help to strengthen the muscles, improve flexibility, and increase range of motion. Strength and flexibility training are key to improving spinal alignment and posture, which can help to reduce neck pain. Not only do you perform exercises when meeting with the physical therapist, but you will also have exercise suggestions to do at home.
- Immobilization: Sometimes, reducing the movement in the neck area can support the healing process. So, the doctor might recommend wearing a neck brace for a while. Not only does immobilization support healing, but it can also be beneficial in relieving pain and preventing re-injury.
- Medications: Prescription drugs might be helpful, especially in the earliest stages after a neck injury. Your doctor might recommend the use of anti-inflammatories, muscle relaxers, and other short-term prescriptions for immediate treatment. The use of medications can sometimes be necessary so a patient can participate in other treatments, such as physical therapy.
- Surgery: If you aren’t getting results from conservative treatment methods, surgery might be the next course of treatment. It depends on the underlying issue that is causing your neck pain. For example, if you are in pain because of a herniated disc, then surgery might be helpful to remove the portions of the disc that are bulging and putting pressure on the nerves.
Diagnosis Overview: What to Expect When Working with an Orthopedic Doctor
Not all neck pain is created equal. The first priority when you meet with an orthopedic doctor is to get to the root cause contributing to your pain. For example, an abnormality in the structures of the cervical spine can be the reason why your pain is flaring and won’t go away.
This diagnostic process differs from what you would experience when meeting with a general doctor or primary care physician. Orthopedic doctors have specialized training beyond medical school, including at least 5 years of postgraduate work and residency in a major medical center.
Here is what you can expect during the diagnosis process:
- Medical History: First, the doctor will want to know your full medical history, including any other health conditions that have affected your neck in the past. Share as much information as possible about previous injuries or illnesses that might be affecting your current condition.
- Physical Examination: Your orthopedic specialist will complete an examination to see where the pain is located, whether the pain is radiating, and evaluate your range of motion and neck function.
- Testing Extremities: Next, it’s common for the doctor to perform tests on the arms and legs to see if the neck pain is associated with any nerve issues. When nerves are affected, it can have a domino impact on the function of the arms and legs.
- Digital Imaging: It can be helpful for the orthopedic doctor to look at imaging. X-rays and other digital images can show information about the position of the spinal disks, bones, nerve roots, muscles, and more. Blood testing might also be recommended.
The diagnosis is one of the most important steps because it provides the doctor with information about the underlying cause. Then a personalized treatment plan can be created to help with your recovery.
Orthopedic Services: Acute Neck Pain and Preventive Services
In addition to treating your current neck pain, an orthopedic doctor can also be a great resource to help you avoid issues in the future. For example, many athletes visit orthopedic specialists for preventive sports medicine services.
When you are ready to meet with an orthopedic doctor, then make sure to choose a specialist who focuses on neck pain. We have doctors who work on conditions from the top of the shoulders to the bottom of the head.
Not only do we offer services for neck pain, but our team is also here to assist with other musculoskeletal conditions: joints, back pain, muscles, bones, and more. In addition, we provide full-service solutions for sports injuries, accidents, post-surgery recovery, and chronic pain.