Causes of Acute and Chronic Neck Pain

If you experience pain in your back or hip that travels down your leg, it may be caused by nerve compression in your lumbar spine. This can also cause numbness or weakness. In severe cases, it can result in difficulty controlling urination or defecation. The main reasons for this nerve compression are:

  • Herniated disc, also known as lumbar disc herniation or slipped disc
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Spondylolisthesis, also known as slipped vertebrae

In a smaller number of cases, the issue can stem from:

  • Spinal fractures resulting from high- or low-energy trauma
  • Spinal infections
  • Spinal tumours

Symptoms of Acute and Chronic Neck Pain

The severity of pain can vary from mild to severe and can extend from the hips to the thighs, calves, feet, and ankles. Some patients may also experience numbness or weakness. Others may feel pain radiating down their legs after walking long distances, causing them to stop (claudication). Symptoms tend to worsen when weight is applied to the spine, such as during sitting or walking, and improve with bed rest. It is also important to be aware of "red flag" symptoms like fever, loss of appetite, weight loss, or nocturnal pain (pain that wakes you up from sleep).

Investigation for Acute and Chronic Neck Pain

To identify the cause of nerve compression in the back, doctors often perform a Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) test. This non-invasive test can reveal the pathology that is compressing the nerve, and provide information on the location and severity of the compression. In some cases, a plain X-ray may also be recommended in addition to the MRI.

Treatment for Acute and Chronic Neck Pain

Treatment strategies depend on the underlying cause of the nerve compression. They typically include:

  • Lifestyle modifications
  • Medication
  • Physical therapy
  • Epidural steroid injections
  • Surgery, when indicated