Definition: what is cervicalgia?
Cervicalgia is a pain located in the cervical vertebrae and can be chronic (lasting for many weeks) or mild (only lasting a few days). The most common form of mild cervicalgia is torticollis.
The cervical spine is made up of seven vertebrae, connected by muscles and ligaments, forming a bone bridge between the head and the chest. This controls head movements in relation to the core and keeping balance. It is the most fragile part of the spine.
Cervicalgia is a common problem which affects women more than men.
Symptoms of cervicalgia
Cervicalgia can appear in the following symptoms:
- neck pain able to spread to the shoulders or the arms
- neck stiffness
- discomfort when moving the head
- tingling in the neck
When the pain is found only on one side and spreads to the shoulder or the arm, it is known as cervicobrachial pain syndrome. Just like sciatica in the leg, it is explained by pinching or nerve damage irrigating the arm.
Causes of cervicalgia
Muscle or joint damage is the most common cause of mild cervicalgia which can be caused by bad posture or sudden movements.
Mild cervicalgia can also be a response to cervical trauma such as “whiplash”, a violent shock to the neck. This can occur following a car accident or poorly controlled diving. In rare cases, it can be linked to an infectious disease, rheumatism or a tumour.
Chronic cervicalgia is most commonly explained by osteoarthritis in the cervical vertebrae. A cervical hernia disk can also cause this.
Cervicalgia treatment is adapted depending on the cause of the problem and first of all, it aims to ease the pain. A doctor can prescribe painkillers or anti-inflammatories and it is advised to apply heat to the painful areas. Wearing a neck brace can also be suggested, especially in cases of torticollis. However, it shouldn’t be worn for more than a few days because moving the head aids in the healing process.
Rehabilitation and neck strengthening sessions with a physiotherapist are then recommended in order to reinforce the cervical vertebrae and limit risks of it happening again.
In case of chronic cervicalgia due to arthritis, steroidal treatments injections can be given.