Tag Archives: Spondylitis & Neck 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!

How Did My Child Get Scoliosis?

There are lots of different types of scoliosis. Congenital scoliosis is when a baby’s spine vertebrae don’t fully form while they’re in the womb. Early onset scoliosis can have a variety of causes, but this kind of scoliosis is when a curve in the spine happens between birth and age 10. Degenerative scoliosis happens in adults, either because of a family history of scoliosis or simply wear and tear on the spine. Certain neurological disorders result in neuromuscular scoliosis (cerebral palsy, spina bifida, muscular dystrophy). But the kind of scoliosis I’m talking about today is called adolescent idiopathic scoliosis (AIS).

adolescent idiopathic scoliosis What Is It?

Out of all the different kinds of scoliosis, AIS is the most common today; about 4% of adolescents have it. It affects more girls than boys (in fact, girls are treated 10 times more often). The word “idiopathic” means that the cause is unknown. Researchers are still working to figure out the specifics, but here are some of the more popular theories:

Family history. Family genetics might play a role, since 30% of adolescents with AIS have a family history of scoliosis. Several researchers have suggested that a mutated gene on the X chromosome may play a role. Other scientists think that AIS may have to do with several chromosomes.

Muscle disorders. One study suggests a relationship between AIS and a primary muscle disorder involving platelet calmodulin (proteins that help with cellular metabolism). The researchers found that individuals with AIS had statistically higher levels of platelet calmodulin. If researchers conducted additional studies like this one on a larger scale and found similar results, doctors might be able to monitor platelet calmodulin levels and identify individuals who are at risk for AIS before its onset.

Growth anomalies. Another theory points at osteopenia (i.e., lower-than-average bone density) and the genes involved with skeletal growth.

Again, no one has definitive answers yet, but science is still searching. The good news is that if AIS is caught, there are treatments available to help.

Watch for These Red Flags

With AIS, there are some physical symptoms that can indicate its onset. You can easily see these symptoms either while the child is standing up straight or if they do a standard Adam’s Forward Bend Test (when the child bends at their waist to touch their toes, keeping their arms and legs straight). Here’s what to look out for:

  • One shoulder is higher than the other
  • One shoulder blade sticks out more prominently than the other
  • One hip is higher than the other
  • The waist looks uneven (one side looks more curved)
  • The body leans to one side
  • The head isn’t centered over the pelvis

If you think your child has AIS, schedule an appointment today with 360 Back and Spine by calling 682-223-1406. We’ll determine whether or not they have scoliosis and help you figure out the next steps.





Ankylosing Spondylitis: What You Should Know


Did you know that back pain is one of the leading causes of missed work days? And over 80% of adults seek treatment for back pain at some point in their lives? It may be a relatively common condition, but sometimes it’s more than a strained back or a pulled muscle. Sometimes it’s an indicator of ankylosing spondylitis (AS).

What Is AS?

In short, AS is a form of arthritis. While it can affect multiple areas in the body, it mostly affects the vertebrae in the spine. The vertebrae become inflamed and, after an extended period of time, they can actually fuse together, resulting in a deformed spine.

It affects men and women alike, and although it can occur at any age, it often starts in the teenage years and when people are in their twenties.

There is no known cause, but there seems to be a strong genetic factor that scientists are still trying to explain. Several genes are said to potentially play a role, but one gene mentioned in particular is HLA-B27. Not everyone with this gene gets AS, and not everyone with AS has this gene, but there is a strong correlation.

Warning Signs and Symptoms

Symptoms of AS will vary depending on the individual, but some of them include:

  • Stiffness or pain in your lower back
  • Progressively worsening back pain
  • Stiffness or pain in your hips
  • Neck pain
  • Fatigue
  • Pain that improves with exercise
  • Pain that worsens with rest
  • Short, painful episodes of pain (called “flares”)
  • Eye inflammation

The only way to know for sure is to meet with a health care provider and have a detailed physical exam. The provider will also probably order some sort of imaging test, like an X-ray or an MRI.

Treatment Options

At this time, there’s no cure for AS, but there are things you can do to make yourself more comfortable.

Physical therapy. This can help you in multiple ways, like maintaining good posture, increasing flexibility, and helping with pain relief. Therapists can create specific stretches and exercises for you and your situation.

Exercise. Daily exercise can really help reduce stiffness and strengthen your muscles. Swimming is one of the best forms of exercise for individuals with AS.

Pain management. Using nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) is a popular choice, but these drugs can hurt your GI tract. Luckily, NSAIDs aren’t your only option. Certain pain management injections, like transforaminal nerve root blocks or caudal epidural injections, are incredibly effective. Transforaminal nerve root blocks will target the specific nerves around the vertebrae that are causing pain. Caudal epidural injections work in two ways: first, an anesthetic blocks the pain signals going to the brain, and then a steroid reduces the inflammation. For more information on the medical injections we offer at 360 Back and Spine Center, click here [link to blog on injections].

If you’ve been experiencing back pain, schedule an appointment today with 360 Back and Spine at 682-223-1406 to get your questions answered! Remember, AS is a chronic disease that only worsens over time. Getting the appropriate treatment early on will help you manage its progression.