Causes and treatments of Cervical Pain

Cervical Pain – What is it? Causes and treatments of Cervical Pain

Cervical pain, or neck pain, is a frequent concern.

It can have many causes: osteoarthritis of the neck, torticollis, after-effects of trauma… 

Faced with the pain and stiffness often induced, there are solutions to calm the symptoms and regain freedom of movement.

What is Cervical Pain?

Among the most common musculoskeletal disorders is : Cervical Pain

Although there are no official figures for the number of cases of cervical Pain , according to the French Chiropractic Association, cervical Pain affects 30 to 50% of adults. According to the same source, 67% of the population suffers from Cervical Pain during a period of their life. 

Generally, cervical pain is spontaneous and mechanical in nature: neck pain occurs without an obvious cause and has the characteristics of mechanical joint damage.

Causes and treatments of : Cervical Pain

Causes and treatments of : Cervical Pain

The cervicarthrose

It is cervical osteoarthritis. This chronic affection is characterized by the degradation of the cartilages of the neck joints. It is frequent and affects mostly women from the age of 35, more rarely men who are affected later around the age of 50. 

The symptoms are summarized by the pain which is posterior and can radiate towards :

  • The neck, the back of the head and the forehead;
  • The shoulders and arms;
  • The upper back; 
  • Towards the arm: we speak then of cervicobrachial neuralgia;
  • The clinical examination shows a stiffness of the neck;

There are often associated phenomena of the vascular sympathetic system by discomfort to the arterial circulation in the neck

  • Dizziness.
  • Changes in the position of the head.
  • Ringing in the ears.
  • Small visual disturbances.

An X-ray is requested to show, in the case of osteoarthritis of the cervical vertebrae, discal pinches between the cervical vertebrae. 

If the sedimentation rate is normal and therefore there is no inflammatory syndrome, the usual treatment for arthrosis is physiotherapy sessions, which are always very effective.

In acute pain, resting the neck with a removable cervical collar is associated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

In case of chronic pain, intermittent use of a cervical collar (neck brace), an American pillow and cervical traction in suspension are very useful.

Isometric rehabilitation of the cervical spine is also recommended, as well as spa therapy.


The pain in the neck is sharp and sudden in onset. Most often, torticollis is due to a contracture of a sternocleidomastoid muscle, of traumatic or inflammatory origin. In common acute torticollis, the onset of contracture and pain is sudden, preventing most neck movements. The condition usually lasts only a few days.

During the consultation, the physician may suggest an X-ray to observe or not a curvature disharmony of the cervical spine without disco-vertebral lesion. The sedimentation rate is normal.

For treatment, it consists of:

  • Common analgesics
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs
  • Myorelaxants

The doctor may suggest physical therapy sessions to the patient. In case of neuro-vegetative dystonia or neurotomy, the depressive syndromes provoke a progressive muscular pain of variable schedule. The clinical examination is normal.

Pain of inflammatory origin

Cervicalgia may be of inflammatory origin if :

  • The pain is sharp even during sleep.
  • The pain occurs progressively.
  • There is no improvement even with treatment. 
  • That the subject suffers from fever. 
  • The spine is stiff. On the biological level, the sedimentation rate is accelerated.

When the stiffness is limited to one vertebral level, the physician suggests infectious or rheumatic spondylodiscitis (damage to the intervertebral disc), or a vertebral tumour. When the stiffness affects the entire spine, it may be ankylosing spondylitis, multiple cancer metastases or Kahler’s disease.

Painful radiations in the arm are part of cervical pain (cervicobrachial neuralgia). Painful radiations towards the neck with dizziness, headaches, visual disturbances (pseudo-scotomas, nystagmus) make us look for vertebro-basilar arterial insufficiency.

Barré-Liéou syndrome (posterior cervical sympathetic syndrome) combines the signs of osteoarthritis with vertigo and changes in head position with ringing in the ears and impressions of flying flies. It is a disorder of the blood circulation in the vertebral artery. 

It is not at all certain that there is a causal link between osteoarthritis of the neck and these ischemic disorders. Atherosclerosis of the neck vessels is more often the cause of cervical pain.

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