It has been three decades since Alan Heisser was cracking helmets on the football field at McNeese State University. It was a role that left him with an unwanted souvenir. "Back when I played football, in the 60's and 70's, you were taught to hit with your face mask because it wasn't supposed to hurt your neck," said Heisser.
That mindset has now changed in football, after scores of neck problems from athletes like Heisser. "It also sounded like rice crispies sometimes, you'll hit and you can feel your neck kind of crack, kind of like cracking your knuckles," he said.
The past five years have been especially uncomfortable for Heisser. It has been tough for him to get comfortable sleeping and driving has become dangerous, as pain followed any neck turn. That is what finally brought him in this year to see Dr. Craig Morton at Center for Orthopaedics with a rundown of common pains. "A lot of people complain of aching, some people have a throbbing pain, burning, stabbing, shooting," said Dr. Morton.
Oftentimes, neck pain can go away after a couple of weeks, but in more serious cases, it can spread and so can its associated problems. "People can have poor sleep, it can lead to depression, if a nerve is involved it can lead to motor deficits, weakness and that can all lead to disability," said Dr. Morton.
Neck pain treatments range from medications to physical therapy and in Heisser's case, injections. "We did some trigger point injections, which is a steroid injection into the sore neck muscles, which really helps loosen them up and facilitate the rehab process," said Dr. Morton.
Heisser had the injections two months ago. He says it took about 10 minutes and a dozen small injections to kick the pain - something he wishes he had done years ago. "I feel 100 percent better. I just wish I had done it sooner now. It's really been good for me," said Heisser.
Genetics can also play a big role in your risk for neck pain, so can your posture and your job - if it requires long hours of sitting or physical activity.
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