Neck pain and functionality is a topic which implies physical limitation due to the severe and affective symptoms of an upper dorsopathy condition. While this is certainly a true and crucial aspect of functional limitation associated with neck ache, there is another and equally important side to this discussion. The emotional effects are just as bad as the physical, if not more so, particularly when patients are terrified of their pain and fear desperately for their future. As a long time lower back pain and recent neck pain sufferer, I can completely empathize with what patients must endure anatomically and psychologically while battling cervical spinal issues on a daily basis.

Functionality is a word which denotes the ability to do what one wishes or what is expected of them. Basically, it means to be able to function up to “typical” physical, mental and emotional expectations. Functionality relates to all parts of life, from career to family to personal to interpersonal applications. A person must be able to move about, interact and participate in order to be an active and contributory part of our society. Chronic and severe neck pain is one of those conditions which drastically limits this functional expression, mind, body and spirit.

Physical functionality and the limits placed upon it by severe neck ache are easy to comprehend. The neck is a very sensitive region of the anatomy and pain there will prevent much of the usual bodily processes we take for granted every day. Neck ache sufferers often can not turn or lift their heads. They can not ambulate properly. Many have radiating pain in the shoulders, arms, hands, fingers or back, limiting the use of their upper appendages for heavy or dexterous work. Patients who are on pharmaceutical treatment may be even more limited physically, since the often dangerous side effects of these powerful drugs may prevent some patients from driving, operating machinery or even interacting with others “normally” or at all. Of course, if surgery has been performed, the great number of physical prohibitions may become permanent, severely reducing the variety and extent of physical activity a patient will be able to enjoy ever again…

Now, if this was the extent of limitation placed on functionality, it would be bad enough, however, there is another whole side to consider when it comes to the emotional and social interactions of the individual, as well as the mental aptitude. The same drugs which limit the ability to do bodily things also affect the mind and emotions. Many are personality-altering or mental capacity diminishing. The pain itself can be horribly affective, inciting fear, worry, anxiety and rage in many patients. This is especially true when treatment is not successful, which statistically is a very common event. If the specter of surgery or physical disability is brought up, these emotions can be amplified exponentially. Suicide is often considered in cases of severe and chronic pain and is unfortunately performed in a minority of cases. Never, ever underestimate the psychoemotional torture of ongoing or recurrent pain…

In order to properly address the mindbody issues of such a virulent symptomatic syndrome, it is crucial to consider all possible aspects of the affective cycle of pain. Purely physical issues must be handled with appropriate treatment and therapy, while mental and psychological issues must also be discussed and managed. The particular needs of each patient must not be dismissed, but instead included in the care program in order to provide the best overall benefits instead of simple pain management. If a patient is having a tough time with a certain aspect of the condition itself, or the effects of a particular treatment, that concern must be addressed by the caregiver and not dismissed as an “unavoidable side effect”.

It has always been my goal as patient’s rights advocate to fight for people with chronic pain and to always remember that the anatomical issues are only part of the pain problem. I can speak from personal experience when I tell of the terrible affective nature of chronic pain, having suffered now for over 2 decades. For patients without adequate support and consideration, the possibility to “fall through the cracks” and end up worse off after professional medical intervention is simply too great. Doctors must always keep in mind that they are treating PEOPLE, and as such must realize that their charges are far more than empty and soulless bodies… They are human beings who must function at multiple complex levels simultaneously.

Author's Bio: 

Sensei Adam Rostocki has put together a fantastic editorial board of spinal experts to help patient cope with the ravages of neck pain. This site is the newest addition to The Cure Back Pain Network and is completely free to use.