Condition

Back and neck pain

Back and neck pain is a common condition that can have a significant effect on your quality of life. 

What is back and neck pain?

Back and neck pain can affect people of all age groups but is most common in older people who have arthritis.  

Treating back and neck pain involves teams of neurologists and spinal specialists. 

Our facilities and expertise include:

  • Diagnostic imaging such as X-rays, CT and MRI scans
  • Imaging of the discs in your spine (discography)
  • Contrast dye imaging of the spinal cord (myelography)
  • Nerve conduction studies
  • Many patients can benefit from physiotherapy including muscle strengthening exercises

We also offer access to our pain specialists to help better manage your back and neck problems. Rehabilitation might be your first treatment option and can also be a part of your recovery after spinal surgery.

Your consultation will recommend the most suitable treatment after a thorough assessment.

What causes back and neck pain?

The back and neck are made up of a series of bones called vertebrae. They are separated by discs and joined up like a chain (the spine). 

The vertebrae are surrounded by supportive ligaments and muscles which allow us to move freely.

The most common cause of back and neck pain is known as musculoskeletal pain. This happens when muscles around the neck and back have become strained, overstretched or damaged. 

It can get worse through the wear and tear of the joints within the spine. This is known as osteoarthritis and can occur as we get older. 

Osteoarthritis, and psoriatic and rheumatoid arthritis can cause pain and discomfort. 

Other causes of neck and back pain include:

  • General conditions that cause long-term pain such as fibromyalgia
  • Problems with the discs of the spine
  • A pinched or compressed nerve in the spine 
  • Narrowing of the canal that contains the spinal cord (spinal stenosis) 

What are the symptoms of back and neck pain?

The symptoms of back and neck pain can vary and usually depend on the underlying cause.

Some people might experience a dull ache while others experience intense pain.

There are a number of other symptoms associated with lower back and neck pain.

Neck pain 

Neck pain can be accompanied by the following symptoms:

  • Neck stiffness
  • Headaches
  • Tingling or shooting pain in the arms and hands
  • Weakness in the arms and hands

Lower back pain 

Lower back pain can be accompanied by the following symptoms:

  • Pain radiating down the back of the leg is known as sciatica. This is caused by a pinching or irritation of the sciatic nerve as it travels down the buttocks and legs.
  • Pain that affects the legs when walking for a fixed distance, known as spinal claudication. You usually have to stop walking for the discomfort to subside.

In rare cases, if a loss of sensation in the legs occurs, or if there are any bladder or bowel problems, then immediate medical attention should be sought.

How is back and neck pain diagnosed?

A consultant will be able to diagnose neck and back pain disorders by asking about the symptoms in detail. 

They may ask about how it started, the duration and severity of pain along with anything that makes it better or worse. They will conduct a thorough examination of your spine. 

This will involve feeling down the neck and back for any key trigger points of pain. You will be asked to perform several movements. 

Further investigations may be needed to confirm the diagnosis. These may include:

  • Blood tests
  • Diagnostic imaging services such as an X-ray or MRI scan
  • Neurological studies where nerves are stimulated to assess how well they are working

What treatments can help with back and neck pain?

Our experienced team can help reduce symptoms of back and neck pain and reclaim your quality of life. 

Each case is different, so treatment is tailored to you and taken at your pace.

The most common treatment for neck and back pain includes a combination of painkillers and physiotherapy.

Some causes of neck and back pain may require more targeted treatments. 

This may include spinal injections to reduce inflammation, or surgery to repair discs or trapped nerves.

A referral to the chronic pain team may be required to manage cases that are more difficult to treat- our pain management specialists are on hand to support you.

How is back and neck pain treated with injections?

There are several types of spinal injections that can help relieve neck pain and back pain:

  • A facet joint injection using a local anaesthetic and a corticosteroid into the spinal tissue
  • A nerve block injection is made directly into the nerve that is causing the back pain
  • An infraorbital nerve block - for neck problems causing facial pain, injections can be done higher into the spine or even directly into the nerves of the face

A spinal injection is a specialist procedure that needs to be performed by a very experienced orthopaedic surgeon. They will locate the exact injection point by visualising the spine with X-rays.

Such treatments can be very effective as the anaesthetic numbs the pain and the corticosteroid reduces inflammation in damaged tissues.

Here at The London Clinic, after just 3 to 4 injections, more than 8 out of 10 patients with neck pain or back pain experience significant pain relief from their day to day symptoms.

How is back and neck pain treated with spinal surgery?

Techniques may include:

  • Microdiscectomy surgery to treat sciatica
  • Spinal canal stenosis treatments such as the insertion of spacers
  • Lumbar spinal fusion using bone graft techniques
  • Replacement of a vertebral disc with a disc prosthesis, commonly used to treat degenerative disc diseases
  • Stabilising the lumbar spine to retain spinal flexibility
  • Kyphoplasty surgery to treat vertebral compression fractures

How common is back and neck pain?

Back and neck pain is very common and it’s estimated that up to 66% of the adult UK population experiences neck pain every year. 

84% of us will have back pain at some point during our lives. 

In fact, 1 in 15 people will see their doctor regarding their back pain as it can have a serious impact on their health and quality of life.

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