Chronic Pain in the Young: Post-Traumatic Neck Pain

By | March 9, 2012

The human face and neck were not designed to withstand the forces of even relatively minor traffic accidents and injuries suffered early in life can lead to a lifetime of chronic pain and disablity.

At Schlesinger Pain Centers I see a large number of young and middle aged patients with chronic neck pain. In this patient population there is almost always a history of trauma, usually vehicular and often removed from the onset of chronic pain by an interval of 5 to 20 years. The reason for this “honeymoon period” immediately following the accident is not clear, but by the time they arrive in my office there is a fairly consistent set of findings including severe straightening of the cervical spine, disc protrusions, ligamentous laxity, spondylolisthesis and facet joint arthropathy. Many of these patients are not clear surgical candidates due to the diffuse nature of their injuries. Intermittent injections may provide relief but the pain seems to recur at increasingly frequent intervals. What is needed is a program of proactive neck health designed to minimize pain, stabilize the neck, prevent or forestall surgery and lengthen the interval between clinical flair ups. As with so many other conditions involving chronic pain in the young it is the long-term commitment to health rather than the intermittent treatment of disease that is essential.

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