The neck consists of seven spinal bones (vertebrae). This makes up the cervical spine. Neck and arm pain can result from several different conditions ranging from worn out discs, herniated discs, instability or deformities of the neck or pinched nerves. One of the most common problems in the neck is degenerative disc disease. The discs in the neck are the shock absorbers in between the vertebrae. These wear out in time and can lead to pinching of the spinal nerves causing arm symptoms such as pain, numbness, tingling and weakness.
As you age, degenerative disorders become more common. Degenerative discs, bulging disc and facet arthritis leading to enlarged facet joints and bone spurs can all contribute to pinching of the spinal cord and spinal nerves. Some people also experience problems with neck tenderness, tingling, and shooting pain. The pain can also lead to headaches.
The first step in your treatment is diagnosing the underlying source of your symptoms. This is often done with x-rays and MRI’s. The x-rays will include one taken while your neck is flexed forward and one with your neck extended back. This will help to determine if your bones are shifting relative to one another when you move. Additionally, if your symptoms have been present for long enough or are severe enough you will then likely undergo an MRI. MRI’s do not expose you to any radiation. The MRI’s are very sensitive and specific for nerve compression and help us to determine the exact source of your symptoms so that your treatment options are tailored for your specific problem.
A number of different types of treatments are available if you have cervical spine pain, referred to as cervicalgia. Typical treatments for neck pain and arm symptoms are anti-inflammatory medications, physical therapy, tens units, and cervical traction.