Cervical Spine Syndrome, Neck Pain and Rehab

The cervical spine syndrome

The term cervical spine syndrome or cervical spine syndrome for short, summarizes typical symptoms that arise in the area of ​​the cervical spine and are felt there by those affected. Neck pain very often occurs in this context, which can become chronic after three months if left untreated. In many cases there is harmless muscle tension behind the symptoms. Other possible triggers are malformations of the cervical spine, overweight or a herniated disc.

Cervical spine syndrome: general

The cervical spine connects directly to the skull and is very flexible. It consists of seven vertebrae and the corresponding intervertebral discs. If an injury occurs in this area or the cervical vertebrae suffer from wear, a cervical spine syndrome may develop. Nerve roots that emerge from the spine between the vertebrae can also be affected by a cervical spine syndrome. The discomfort that triggers the disease can spread to the arms. Cervical spine syndrome can even affect the eyes and ears. Doctors have developed different classifications for the disease.

For example, it is important

  • the location (upper, middle or lower cervical spine syndrome),
  • the course (acute or chronic cervical spine syndrome),
  • the cause (degenerative, post-traumatic, functional) and
  • the radiance of the pain.

Cervical spine syndrome: causes, risk factors and prevention

If you suddenly suffer an injury to the cervical spine, an acute cervical spine syndrome can develop. One example here is the well-known whiplash after a rear-end collision with a car. If muscle tension is present for a long time due to stress or incorrect posture, the result can be a chronic cervical spine syndrome. Signs of wear also fall into the category of chronic cervical spine syndrome.

Known causes and risk factors include:

  • Wear of the bones and ligaments (damage to the intervertebral discs, herniated disc, weak ligaments, joint diseases, changes in the bone structure)
  • Malformations (spina bifida, vertebral changes, scoliosis, Scheuermann’s disease)
  • Inflammation (infections, rheumatic diseases)
  • Skeletal diseases (osteoporosis, osteomalacia)
  • Tumor diseases (plasmacytoma, metastases)
  • Injuries (fractures, whiplash)

If you want to prevent cervical spine syndrome, you can actively relieve your cervical spine. Avoiding risk factors such as being overweight and incorrectly loaded is helpful here. Strengthening gymnastics exercises also contribute to the health of the cervical spine.

Cervical spine syndrome: appearance and symptoms

Most patients with cervical spine syndrome see their doctor because they are in pain and can no longer move their cervical spine as usual. The pain can be over the spine, but it can also radiate all around. A knocking or pressing character is typical. If the person moves his head, he feels the pain more.

During the physical examination, the doctor usually finds tense muscles in the neck and shoulders. The patients report headaches and dizziness. Hearing and vision disorders also occur. The disturbing tinnitus (ear noise) is particularly associated with the cervical spine syndrome. Other possible complaints are tingling and numbness in the arms and paralysis. Whiplash injuries can take hours or days for symptoms to appear.

Cervical spine syndrome: examinations and diagnosis

The first steps towards diagnosing cervical spine syndrome are your medical history and physical exam. Your doctor will find important information from previous illnesses, medication intake and your private and professional situation. During the examination, the doctor looks closely at your spine and the surrounding muscles. He assesses whether there are signs of a general underlying disease or inflammation. Indications of injuries are also important.

Further investigations:

  • X-rays of the cervical spine
  • Blood tests for inflammation or rheumatism
  • Computed tomography (CT)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)

Therapy & rehab of the cervical spine syndrome

In most cases, an acute cervical spine syndrome can be treated on an outpatient basis by a family doctor or orthopedic surgeon. Pain medication and physiotherapy can be sufficient here. The situation is different with the chronic form of the disease. Here, doctors often recommend supplementing physical therapy with psychotherapeutic treatment. In order to achieve a significant improvement in symptoms, an inpatient stay in a specialized rehabilitation clinic may be necessary. Allow at least two weeks of rehab. Find out more about this from your doctor and the responsible insurance provider. This can be your health insurance or pension insurance.

Pain therapy with medication

The doctor first treats the cervical spine syndrome with pain relievers that work in the place where the pain develops. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen and diclofenac are often used. If this group of active substances is insufficient in connection with physiotherapy applications, the treating doctor prescribes so-called muscle relaxants. The medication relaxes the muscles of the cervical spine. Another stage is the use of pain relievers that work directly in the brain and spinal cord. To keep the dosage of the pain medication as low as possible, doctors use antidepressants at the same time. This combination of medications aims to prevent patient dependence on pain relievers. Some pain clinics also offer local anesthesia, to eliminate pain in the neck area. The drug is injected at the site of the pain. In this way, nerves that transmit the pain can also be blocked.

If you have opted for rehabilitation treatment in a pain clinic, you will learn about various other methods of coping with pain there. A team of doctors, physiotherapists, psychologists/psychiatrists and social workers will work out a comprehensive treatment plan for you personally. You will try different therapies until you find the right treatment. An important part of the stay is dedicated to relaxation training. You will also get to know the connections between your everyday behavior and your symptoms.

Pain therapy with physical measures

Medications are just one way to combat pain. Physical methods are low in side effects and in many cases can even be carried out at home. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) works via adhesive electrodes. You attach the pads on both sides next to the cervical spine and stimulate your nerves using a handy device. Other treatments that you can get to know in a cure are cold air therapy or the application of heat with red light. Try out which therapy is effective for you. Massages are a relaxing option for the moment. In the long run, however, your pain will only improve if you become active yourself. Physiotherapy exercises strengthen the muscles of the cervical spine in the long term. If the cervical vertebrae are blocked, manual therapy by a chiropractor can help. Acupuncture is also often used for cervical spine syndrome.

Occupational therapy and psychological counseling

An occupational therapist (occupational and occupational therapist) gives you tips for correct posture. It sharpens your awareness of unfavorable movements at work and during sports. Perhaps you have not yet noticed the situations in which you strain your cervical spine incorrectly. Psychologists or psychotherapists will show you relaxation methods such as autogenic training or progressive muscle relaxation according to Jakobson. In the conversation, the therapists look for signs of depression or other mental illnesses.

The multimodal pain therapy

Specialized pain clinics offer further therapy options. Take a good look around before deciding on rehab. The goal should always be to ultimately be able to do without pain medication. But reducing the dose is already a success. The doctors and therapists have a comprehensive view of your illness during an inpatient stay. This may result in new facts that were previously lost in outpatient care. In addition, there is many years of experience with the cervical spine syndrome.

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