As the summer season heats up, the incidence of neck injuries is also on the rise. Whether from diving into shallow water, whiplash from water sports or car accidents from more frequent travel, these potentially life-altering injuries require a careful approach to care.
“The neck – or cervical spine – is delicate and critically important to overall health because it houses vital nerves that supply the brain, esophagus, trachea, voice box and more,” says Dr. Jay Chun, a neurosurgeon at Atlantic NeuroSurgical Specialists who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of cervical spine issues. “That’s why neck injuries can be catastrophic, and in some cases, fatal.”
Dr. Chun, offers these tips for navigating through treatment options:
- Know the type of doctor you need.
- Neurosurgeon or orthopedist? While orthopedists focus on the musculoskeletal system – which includes the neck – neurosurgeons specialize in treating the nervous system, which is key given the vital nerves housed in the neck. Neurosurgical training zeros in on the cervical spine, which is why orthopedists often call in neurosurgeons when there is nerve damage, complexity or complications with a patient case.
- Find the root cause of the pain.
- Look for a medical professional who, as part of his/her regular practice, invests the time upfront to pinpoint the proper diagnosis. The specialist should be a “neurology detective” of sorts, evaluating the full picture and extent of symptoms to find the true source of the pain.
- Explore treatment options.
- Choosing to be seen by a neurosurgeon doesn’t mean you’re signing up for surgery. In fact, the best patient outcomes happen when symptoms can be adequately improved without surgery. Explore alternate treatment options – from different methods for pain management to physical therapy – before committing to surgery.
- Look into minimally invasive procedures if surgery is required.
- When surgery is the best course of treatment, minimally invasive procedures offer many benefits compared to conventional surgery. Minimally invasive methods enable doctors to access highly targeted areas of the neck without disrupting other parts of the cervical spine, causing less damage to the surrounding tissues, less pain and faster recovery.
“The neck is highly complex and has the potential to affect your entire body,” adds Chun. “While being cautious to avoid neck injuries in the first place is important, be prepared to advocate for your own health if and when you need the help of a medical professional.”
For more information on cervical spine issues and treatments, contact ANS at 732.455.8225 and visit ansdocs.com.
Atlantic NeuroSurgical Specialists (ANS) is New Jersey’s largest neurosurgical practice and one of the most advanced in the country. Its Spine Center is known for evaluating spine disorders and treating them with innovative non-surgical and surgical treatments. ANS is changing the way patients are treated by actively participating in an outcomes database that measures the quality and efficacy of common spinal and neurosurgical procedures.