Head and neck pain can occur for a variety of reasons. Some pain will go away with time, or through a change in lifestyle or behavior. But if you’re dealing with head and neck pain that lasts more than a few days and doesn’t improve with over-the-counter pain medicine, it’s time to make an appointment with one of our pain management specialists for diagnosis and treatment.
Depending on the cause of your head and neck pain, these five non-surgical treatments might be effective for you.
1. Physical Therapy
From muscle tenderness, tension and tightness to poor posture – certain types of headaches and neck pain can be relieved through physical therapy treatments. A trained physical therapist can design an exercise plan that strengthens your neck muscles and takes pressure off your spine. They might also apply heat or cold pads during a therapy session to either increase blood flow and range of motion (heat) or decrease blood flow and inflammation (cold). Still other physical therapy treatments could include therapeutic massage, chiropractic treatment and/or neck-strengthening exercises you can do at home.
2. Trigger Point Injections
Trigger points are areas in muscle that are very irritable, and, when pressed, produce a twitch within the affected muscle. A trigger point may produce not only pain in the affected muscle, but in a distant area, including locations in the head and neck, called referred pain. Trigger points may develop because of trauma, injury, inflammation, or other factors. A trigger point injection is a procedure where a medication, usually a local anesthetic, is injected into the painful muscle to provide relief. The pain relief should be experienced not only in the affected muscle, but in the area of referred pain as well.
3. Anti-Inflammatory Steroid Injections
If your pain is being cause by inflammation around the nerves in your neck, a cervical epidural steroid injection can help by “coating” the nerves in the area. Patients experiencing a herniated disc, a degenerated disc, osteoarthritis or inflammation that reduces the space around the nerves can benefit from this type of treatment. The goal of the injection is to reduce inflammation and associated nerve pain – and the injection itself is given with the patient laying face down under local anesthetic.
4. Botox injections
Think BOTOX® is just for wrinkles? Think again. It can be effective for the treatment of adults with cervical dystonia—a condition that causes the muscles in your neck to tighten or spasm without your control. BOTOX injections can reduce the severity of abnormal head position and neck pain. If you have chronic migraines (≥ 15 days per month) with headache lasting 4 hours a day or longer, this treatment could also be right for you.
5. Radiofrequency Ablation (Rhizotomy)
Yes, it sounds complicated. But in reality, Radiofrequency Ablation (or RFA) is a non-surgical, outpatient therapy procedure that’s used to help patients with chronic head and neck pain related to spinal arthritis. As with any non-surgical treatment, this procedure is only recommended after thorough examination and diagnosis. During the RFA procedure, heat is delivered to targeted nerve tissues, preventing pain signals from reaching the brain.
If you or a loved one are experiencing chronic head or neck pain, don’t wait. Learn more about our pain management program and all the options available to you at Orthopedic Institute.