by Johannes Uys
As a GP, I deal with a lot of complaints where neck pain or neck stiffness is a symptom. Neck pain can vary from mild discomfort, barely noticeable as a symptom to quite significant with a lot of muscle stiffness and immobility where any movement, however small, hurts. The severity of the pain does not always relate to the seriousness of the condition causing the pain.
Neck pain can have many causes, but are commonly grouped into three distinct categories:
1. Neck pain as a symptom of an underlying medical condition
A lot of medical conditions will have neck pain as a common symptom. This is where the experience of the treating professional plays a vital role in prompt and correct diagnosis of the underlying cause. Again, this can vary from serious, but uncommon medical conditions like Meningitis and other infections, Brain tumours etc. to less serious and for more common conditions like stress / anxiety leading to neck stiffness and associated muscle pain.
2. Neck pain originating from Soft Tissue / Muscles around the neck
The most common cause of general neck pain seems to be from the soft tissue structures around the neck. This can be from injury (sports injuries, whiplash injuries etc.) or just sleeping in a different position. Most often, the cause is posture related and due to our modern lifestyle. Treatment tends to be aimed at strengthening the muscles or tendons causing the pain and addressing the specific weakness or posture leading to the pain.
3. Neck pain originating from the cervical vertebrae
Neck pain with a vertebral cause is more difficult to treat. Causes might include neck injuries or wear and tear leading to arthritis of the cervical vertebrae. We also see cervical disc herniation or facet joint pain or stiffness leading to acute neck pain. It is vital to get an accurate diagnosis where vertebral pain is concerned and this is where X-rays and MRI scans of the neck helps.
Treatment will again be focussed around Physiotherapy and Chiropractic. Sometimes we have to refer patients to a Neuro-Spinal Specialist or a Rheumatologist if the injury or disease process warrants specialist treatment and occasionally treatment might even involve spinal surgery. Again, accurate diagnosis is key in deciding what treatment will be needed.
Broadgate Clinics Concept
The great advantage of an integrated clinic, like BROADGATE, is the immediate access to specialist practitioners. We offer GP services, Physiotherapy, Chiropractic, Spinal specialists and Rheumatology, all at the same clinic.