Reading Time: 6 minutes
More Than A Pain In The Neck
Neck pain is a common condition that will affect 75% of Americans. Pain is a general term that covers a range of medical conditions. Whiplash and neck strain are common reasons. Text neck, the strain caused by repetitive cell phone use, is a rising concern. Chronic pain, however, stems from issues involving the spine. Problems like degenerative discs, herniated discs, spinal stenosis, or osteoarthritis could be the underlying cause. With the right treatment, many neck pain sufferers can reduce pain. In some cases, anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF) surgery may be the right choice.
Try these steps to fix neck pain
There are several solutions for managing chronic neck pain. These include medication, hot and cold therapy, steroid injections, even rest. But exercise is by far one of the best ways to reduce chronic neck pain. Physical therapists use a combination of strength and stretching exercises when treating patients. The good news is there’s no need to go to a therapist, at least not immediately. Some of these exercises could be done at home. Try these 3 exercises to see a reduction in neck pain.
1. Provide resistance with isometric exercises
Isometric exercises are static contractions geared to maintain muscle strength. Sit in a chair with feet flat on the floor. Press the palm against the forehead, resisting with the neck muscles. Move the hand to each side of the head, then the back of the head. The objective is to resist the neck muscles for 10 seconds. Repeat each side 5 times.
2. Time to flex
Flexion stretches are a simple yet effective exercise to release tense muscles. To start, keep the neck and shoulders straight, looking straight ahead. Then slowly bring the chin to the chest. The back of the neck will stretch. Hold the pose for 5-10 seconds, then release. This exercise can also be done laterally. From the starting position, tilt the ear to the shoulder without moving the shoulder. Holding for 5-10 seconds, a stretch should be felt at the side of the neck. Repeat for the next side. Do 5 repetitions of all 3 stretches, 3-5 times weekly.
3. Strengthen this unlikely muscle group
Research has shown that core exercises can help with neck pain. A strong core supports the entire spine. This, in turn, relieves pressure on the neck. Planks are one of the most effective core exercises. To perform a plank, lie on the front flat on the floor. Raise from the floor resting body weight on the forearms and toes. Squeeze the core, thighs, and buttocks, holding the position for 30 seconds. Aim for 3 sets, 3-5 times weekly.
The alphabet of neck surgery
Exercise is a useful tool in the fight against neck pain. However, there are occasions where ACDF surgery is the best step. Anterior cervical discectomy and fusion is the removal of a damaged or herniated disc. The surgeon uses a minimally invasive approach at the front of the neck to access the damaged disc. The damaged disc gets replaced with a synthetic part or spacer. Eventually, the two affected vertebrae grow over the spacer and fuse together. This removes any irritation on the surrounding nerves. More than 30,000 procedures are done yearly with an 85% success rate. But when should someone with neck pain consider ACDF?
When should you turn to ACDF?
A spine specialist can advise if ACDF is the right approach. ACDF surgery helps conditions like degenerative disc disease or herniated discs. Doctors often try all non-surgical options first. So ACDF would first be considered if there is no improvement after at least 6 months. If the doctor sees visible damage using an MRI or x-ray, ACDF may be a better course of action. Finally, if the pain is unbearable and affecting the quality of life, surgery can help. The decision is up to the patient with the guidance of the doctor.
Protect the neck at all costs
Neck exercises help persons with constant neck pain and act as a preventative means. Make sure to use proper form and rest so as not to strain surrounding neck muscles. If neck pain continues to hamper daily activities, seek medical advice right away. The issue could be related to the discs in the neck. In that case, ACDF surgery could be a long-term solution.