Types of Neck Pain and how we treat them

Neck pains are less common than back pains but there are a significantly large number of people who suffer from neck pain across the world. This particular pain can be around the neck alone or can involve the arms and shoulders. Some people indicate presence of a mild headache and stiffness of the neck.

Neck pains can be a symptom of an underlying disease but in most cases it indicates the aging of the spine. As you get older, the discs degenerate and the spine may become less stable. There are three types of neck pains:

  • Axial neck pain – The axial pain is musculoskeletal and involves the soft tissue. Muscle strain is an example of this type of pain.
  • Radiculopathy – This is neck and arm pain as a result of root compression and is characterized by pain around the arm and shoulder region. Numbness and weakness may also be experienced.
  • Myelopathy – This type of pain is as a result of increased pressure causing spinal cord  compression and as a result it also affects the legs. A person suffering from this may have difficulty walking and numbness in the arms.

The pain may be acute or chronic in each type. Acute pain comes as a result of injury or sudden stress. It can normally be resolved with medication and bed rest for several days. Chronic pain is that pain persisting over three months. At this point it is wise to consider management plans like therapy or surgical interventions.

Chronic pain treatment can be classified in three sections:

  •  Medication
  • Therapy
  •  Surgery


Unresolved chronic neck pain is usually examined with scans and X-Rays to determine the  cause. If the pain persists, your doctor will recommend drugs to relieve the pain, anti-depressants and muscle relaxers as a combination. This can be used as a short-term solution as during this period your doctor will monitor the effectiveness at every appointment.


There are numerous techniques that are used in therapy to offer pain relief.

  • Physical therapy  : Therapy can use exercises to strengthen the neck and align your posture. The use of heat or ice and electrical impulses is also effective in pain relief.
  • Traction : This is the use of weights, pulleys to stretch your neck. This therapy may provide relief of some neck pain, especially pain related to nerve root irritation if done correctly under the supervision of a specialist.
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) : Electrodes are placed on your skin close to the pain source and deliver minute electrical impulses that may help to relieve pain.
  • Soft collar : This supports your neck and helps to take off the weight from your structure. It may help in pain relief but it also requires use over a monitored and timed period toavoid more damage.


This is an effective way of correcting myelopathy and nerve root compression. It is the most  invasive of the methods but may offer the best chance of pain relief. A combination of the  surgery and therapy would offer relief and avoid recurrences as recommended by a specialist  doctor.