Neck pain is a common ailment, but it can be a sign of a problem in the spine. Neck pain moving into the shoulder, arm or hand, as well as weakness or numbness in the areas of pain can be a sign of a pinched nerve in your neck. If you experience weakness that affects your legs, bowels or bladder, it’s important to make an appointment with your primary care provider as soon as possible, since this can be a sign of a severe problem. Pinched nerves can be caused by a herniated disc or arthritis in the neck.
If you’ve been experiencing recurring neck pain accompanied by the above symptoms, your first step would be talking to your primary care physician. If they suspect a spinal problem, they may recommend diagnostic tests and a few non-invasive treatments to start. These can include medication, physical therapy and, in some cases, injections. If none of those treatments help, your primary care will refer you to a surgeon.
Depending on the cause of your neck pain, your surgeon may suggest either disk replacement surgery or spinal fusion. Spinal fusion is a surgical procedure to permanently connect two or more vertebrae in your spine, eliminating motion between them, to improve stability, correct a deformity or reduce pain. Cervical spinal fusion involves fusing vertebrae in the neck by placing a spacer where the disc originally was and holding it together with metal plates or screws in order to provide stability and strength to the area.
Dr. Benjamin Ditty is a neurosurgeon in Greensboro and a member of Cone Health medical staff. Dr. Ditty received his bachelor’s degree in economics from Johns Hopkins University. He completed medical school at the University of Southern California and his residency in neurosurgery at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine.