Category Archives: Back Pain

It’s a Pain in the Neck

Neck pain can be a nuisance at best and debilitating at worst. Here are two common culprits behind the pain:

neck pain

Strained or Pulled Muscles

Strained and pulled muscles are the same thing. You strain your muscles when you stretch your muscle or tendon too far, which causes tears in your muscle/tendon fibers. This is different from a sprain, which is what happens when you stretch ligaments too far (ligaments are the things that connect one bone to another bone). Strained muscles are fairly common; on the other hand, athletes and other active individuals are at the highest risk for getting sprains.

If your neck feels really stiff, or if you have a hard time moving or rotating your head, you might have a strained neck muscle. If you have a minor strain, you can try alleviating the pain by alternating with hot and cold compresses, which will help with healing and reducing inflammation. Over-the-counter meds might help with the pain, as well. If it’s a more serious strain, or if the pain lasts for longer than a couple of days, seriously consider seeing a doctor.

Pinched Nerve

There are two different causes of pinched nerves: herniated discs and degeneration.

To understand how a herniated disc can cause a pinched nerve, let’s first look at the anatomy of the spine. A spinal disc is the little “shock absorber” that sits between two vertebrae in the spine. It’s what allows your spine to move back and forth, side to side. There are two layers to a spinal disc: the outer layer (called the annulus fibrosus) and the inner layer (called the nucleus pulposus). The outer layer simply protects and contains the inner layer. When the outer portion is weak, sometimes the inner portion leaks out and presses against (or pinches) the nearby nerve. Chemicals released by the broken disc can also irritate the nerve, causing more pain.

Degenerative disc disease can cause bone spurs, which can pinch your nerves. Bone spurs are abnormal growths of the bone, and if the growths get large enough, they can rub on the nerve root or pinch it.

Pinched nerves are often painful (and sometimes, that’s your only symptom). It might be centralized to the area where the pinched nerve is, or it might radiate through other parts of your body. You might feel pins and needles or numbness.

Your treatment will depend on your body and the severity of the pinched nerve. You may need physical therapy or pain medications. A few people with herniated discs require surgery to fix the issue. Talk with your doctor about what options are best for you.

Since each patient is unique, don’t rely simply on the information you find on the web to give yourself a diagnosis. Schedule an appointment with a doctor who can help you figure out what’s causing your neck pain and what you can do to fix it. You can schedule an appointment with 360 Back and Spine by calling 682-223-1406 today!

What preventative measures can people take when sitting at a desk for prolonged periods of time?

Dr. Melanie Kinchen was recently asked to contribute to The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons on-going campaign called A Nation in Motion. This campaign features several articles called Ortho-pinions that highlight the opinions of orthopaedic surgeons on common injuries, conditions, and treatments.

The Dangers of Desks

The Effect of Sitting

The modern work environment isn’t exactly forgiving when it comes to encouraging a stress-free lifestyle. Many careers include being glued to a desk for several hours at a time while staring at a computer screen. This kind of sedentary behavior can cause both neck and back pain. Poor posture contributes to the problem as well. Back pain is the most common issue associated with sitting at a desk.

How to minimize pain/stress

  • Get up from your desk and stretch every so often. Try to walk around from time to time. According to researchers from the University of Utah School of Medicine, data revealed that there was a 33 percent decreased risk of dying when people got up to move around for about two minutes each hour.
  • A chair with lumbar support for your back is ideal.
  • Place your feet firmly on the ground and keep your knees at a 90 degree angle.
  • In order to lessen stress in your neck, I would recommend that you keep your computer screen higher up so you’re not constantly looking down.
  • Most often, back pain is caused by excessive strain of the back muscles and ligaments. Engage in a more active exercise program once the initial pain subsides that includes walking, swimming, bicycling and strength training with light weights.

What can be done today

Many patients report only mild neck and back pain, and when that happens I recommend using a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID). Try taking something over-the-counter, twice-a-day, for a week. If the pain is severe or lasts for many weeks, see a physician. Stronger medication that might be prescribed is muscle relaxants. If there is just isolated neck and back pain, it will resolve with medication. An MRI can be performed if pain still persists after medication.

Is surgery ever necessary?

Surgery can be an option for people who experience pain over a long period of time, but that can sometimes be caused by arthritis. People with arthritis who sit for long hours are also more likely to get aggravated by back pain. Unfortunately, surgery for back pain is not nearly as effective on arthritis patients. In extreme cases, spinal fusion will be offered, but surgery for back pain should be the last resort.

Many patients who experience severe neck and back pain think that it is incredibly significant. Most of the time, back pain isn’t caused by a slipped disk or tumor. Just because there is pain, it doesn’t mean that it calls for surgical intervention. There’s really no quick fix. Once habits and lifestyles are changed, the pain should subside.

If you suffer from chronic back pain or have been diagnosed with a slipped disk or tumor and wish to get a second opinion, call our Grapevine or Richardson office to schedule an appointment at 682-223-1346