Although surgery is frequently recommended, it should be your “last
Medications, including nonsteroidals and other pain relievers, are
generally tried first. Physical therapy for heat, massage, exercise,
instruction in ergonomics and traction may be helpful. If traction is
beneficial, machines are available for use at home. Chiropractic is
similar to physical therapy in some ways and can effectively relieve pain.
Neck collars rarely provide much benefit, and no scientific studies
support their long-term use. Similarly, cervical pillows may provide
comfort but do little to speed recovery.
If conservative care doesn’t help, a variety of injection procedures
may be tried.
Epidural blocks are injections into the space around the
nerve roots. Anesthetics and steroids are used and can alleviate nerve
pain in the neck and arm. Facet blocks are shots into the small joints in
the back of the neck. They can help midline neck pain. Trigger-point
injections are used to put anesthetics into muscles which are in spasm.
These can also help midline pain and stiffness.
If all else fails, cervical disc surgery can be done using
invasive and bloodless techniques. Only a one-inch incision is needed. The
operation usually takes less then an hour and requires only an overnight
hospital stay. It works about 95 percent of the time. Most patients wake
up without pain. Complications are rare.