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Is your aching neck something serious?

Paoli Hospital February 4, 2014 General Wellness

What a pain in the neck. For many people, that's more than just a cliche; it's a bone-crunching daily misery. Neck pain is one of the most common reasons to visit a doctor. Unfortunately, one of its common causes is something you can't do much about: aging.

Aging, degeneration, wear and tear, use and abuse--they all take a toll on the body, starting at the moment we take our fist step and oppose gravity. Degeneration of the spine is a normal consequence of growing older. Aging is also a risk factor for many of the degenerative disorders that can cause neck pain, including osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis, and cervical spondylosis.

Those are big words to describe small changes in the spine that worsen with time. These conditions can put pressure on the spinal cord. The result: chronic pain which, left untreated, can severely impact your daily life.

"These changes in our neck can't be avoided and can be demonstrated on an MRI as early as our mid-thirties," says Robert Morrow, MD, neurosurgeon at Paoli Hospital.

Symptoms that may signal a degenerative spinal disorder include:

  • Neck pain that worsens when you bend or turn your neck or when you cough, sneeze or laugh
  • Pain, weakness, numbness, or tingling in the shoulders, arms, hands or legs
  • Difficulty using fingers for precise tasks such as writing, fastening buttons or opening cans
  • Legs that feel stiff, weak or jerky, making walking difficult
  • Bowel or bladder control problems

"Although the degenerative process can't be reversed, you can control the symptoms and the progression od the condition can be minimized by appropriate medical care," explains Dr. Morrow.

If you are experiencing any of the above symptoms, make an appointment with your physician. To schedule an appointment with a specialist at Main Line Health, call 1.866.CALL.MLH (1.866.225.5654) or use our secure online appointment request form.