Neck disorders are considered to be the most common health concern in mechanised nations. This ailment can affect patients of all age groups but high prevalence is seen among patients aged between 30 – 70 years. According to health magazines, about 40 percent of working professionals will suffer from stiff neck conditions at least once during their lives.
Majority of spine surgeons believe that cervical postures are directly proportional to neck pain & other degenerative neck conditions. Neck pain is usually not considered as a serious health issue but if it lasts more than 3 months, this condition is considered to be chronic & severe.
Osteoarthritis is the most common cause of neck pain which may result in restricted movements of the neck. Muscles around the neck are delicate & can be easily stressed due to poor posture. Patients should look for proper medical treatments if neck pain becomes severe & creates numbness or weakness in neck, arms, shoulders or spinal nerves region.
What is Degenerative Neck Condition?Cervical spine in neck is formed from seven bones. These bones, also known as vertebrae are separated by discs filled with cushioning gel-like material. These cervical discs are responsible for stabilising neck & allowing a range of motion such as bending the neck & turning it sideways. They play the role of natural shock absorbers but with time, these may begin to degenerate.
It can lead to narrowing of space between vertebrae & causing pinching of nerve roots. It has been found that nearly 30 percent of people below the age of 40 years & 70 percent people above the age of 40 years suffer from some degree of degenerative neck conditions. As this progresses neck becomes less flexible & patients may feel stiffness around neck region. Such patients should, therefore, seek prompt treatment before worsening of the condition.
- Straining of Muscles - Patients who sit in the same position over computers for prolonged periods of time may develop strain in neck muscles. Several poor habits like crushing teeth or reading in bed can also stress muscles around the neck area.
- Compression of Spinal Nerves - Spinal nerves can be compressed due to underlying herniated disc condition in patients.
- Sports Injuries - Sports injuries may have an adverse impact on patient’s neck. While playing, patients can strain soft tissues around neck causing harsh neck pain.
- Ailments - Several ailments such as cancer or rheumatoid arthritis may be a possible causing neck pain.
- Repetitive Motion of Head - Twisting or turning the head in an inappropriate repetitive manner will usually result in stressful neck conditions. It can weaken neck’s ligaments & tendons as well.
- Mental Stress - Sometimes, neck muscles may become stiff due to emotional stress or anxiety.
- Severe headache
- Irritating spinal nerve roots
- Inability to move head freely
- Stiffness in muscles
- Weakened neck muscles
- Chronic neck pain
- Numbness & tingling
During initial appointment, doctors will undertake a complete physical examination of patients. Spine surgeons will try to figure out the exact cause & severity of neck pain. Surgeons may ask patients to undergo certain imaging tests to identify the root cause of neck pain. This is to help them to determine a proper treatment plan for patients. Following steps may be ordered during diagnosis.
- Medical History - Spine surgeons may ask patient’s medical history for a complete understanding of their health condition.
- Sleeping Habits - Improper sleeping habits may be one of the reasons for neck pain. Surgeons may ask patients about their sleeping position & the type of pillows or mattress used by them.
- Physical Assessment - Spine surgeons may observe sitting & standing posture of patients. Patients may be asked to rotate their neck in various positions in order to check for any stiffness & problem with neck.
- Neurological Examination - Surgeons may check reflexes of patients with a rubber hammer test. They may observe the response & sensation with this kind of simple tests.
- X-Ray Test - Spine surgeons can order x-ray scans for clearly understanding patient’s internal neck condition. It is extremely helpful in detecting any tumor or fracture located within the neck region.
- CT Scan - CT scans are capable of showing detailed views of patient’s targeted neck area. Abnormal changes in bones around the neck region can be easily detected with CT scans.
- MRI Scan - An MRI scan uses strong magnetic field & electromagnetic radio waves for creating pictures of patient’s neck tissues & bones.
- Blood Tests - Blood tests can identify infectious underlying conditions which may have resulted in severe neck pain.
- Current Medications - Patients should make a note of medications, herbs & supplements that they consume on a regular basis.
- Symptoms Experienced - Patients should frankly discuss symptoms experienced by them in detail with spine surgeons.
- Stressful Events - Patients should discuss any stressful events that they might have experienced in the past.
- Concerns - Patients must share concerns & queries with spine surgeons prior to undergoing treatment.
Patients should prepare a set of important questions to ask spine surgeons. This will help them understand the entire treatment procedure & reduce worries related to outcomes of treatment.
- What is the possible cause of my harsh neck pain?
- Can you elaborate my diagnosis report in simpler terms?
- What treatment plan do you suggest for my neck pain?
- Is surgery necessary for completely alleviating pain?
- Are there any medicines which can provide relief?
- What will happen if I do not want to undergo any surgical procedure?
- Will physical therapy & proper diet help me?
- What are the common risks & complications associated with suggested surgery?
- How can I overcome these risks & complications?
- What measures do I need to take during recovery time?
- What can I do to speed up the healing process post-surgery?
- Are there any restrictions that I need to understand?
- Will I be able to participate in sports & events following surgery?
- How frequently will I need to visit the hospital for follow-up sessions?
- Can you suggest a spine surgeon for second opinion?
- Medications - Depending upon the degree of pain, doctors may prescribe over-the-counter pain drugs & medications to patients.
- Physical Therapy - Light exercises can be suggested by physical therapists for relieving neck pain. In many cases, physical therapy has proven to be effective. But if pain persists even after proper exercises, patients might need to change the treatment option.
- Proper Posture - Sometimes, neck pain occurs due to poor body posture. If neck pain has resulted due to improper body posture, it can be easily cured by practicing proper body maintenance of posture while sitting, standing or resting.
- Massage - Muscle strain & spasms can be calmed with soothing massage techniques. This may help alleviate painful neck conditions.
- Surgery - Some of the most common surgeries employed for treating degenerative neck conditions include the following.
- Anterior Cervical Discectomy & Fusion - It is most commonly used surgical procedure for taking off impaired discs in patient’s cervical spine. This procedure is performed from the front end of neck in combination with spinal fusion method.
- Artificial Disc Replacement - Spine surgeons may remove damaged cervical discs with an artificial disc. It provides stability to spine & efficiently dissolves neck pain & stiffening.
- Spinal Decompression - This involves removal of a small area of bone over the spinal nerve root. It helps in providing relief from pinched nerves around the neck region.
- Severe bleeding
- Blood clots
- Nerve root damage
- Leakage of cerebrospinal fluid
- Weakening of tissues & bones around the neck region
- Pulmonary embolism
Advantages of Medical Tourism for Treatment of Degenerative Neck ConditionsMedical tourism is a feather in the cap of global healthcare industry. Medical tourism can be defined as a practice of visiting different countries in order to avail best & cost-effective medical solutions. Billions of international patients have benefited with the concept of medical tourism.
Major reason for seeking medical tourism is the feasibility of procedure alongside cost savings & easy access to advanced facilities. Countries like United Arab Emirates, India, South Korea, Turkey & Germany are considered to be key players in the global medical tourism industry. These countries offer best treatments & surgeries to international patients. According to top medical institutions, the healthcare industry will grow at the rate of 45 percent in the upcoming decade.