While neck pain is a common ailment among both men and women, calcific tendinitis of the longus colli (the neck muscle in front of the spine) is a rare, benign condition. Symptoms include neck stiffness, severe neck pain, and pain when swallowing. Since the condition can mimic other, more serious diseases or disorders such as meningitis, cervical spine fracture, inflammation of the spine, or an abscess underneath the tissue at the back of the throat, it's important to have a doctor check your symptoms.
Knowing the Symptoms
Individuals as young as 21 to as old as 81 can suffer calcific tendinitis of the longus colli. However, the disease usually affects people between their 30s and 60s. Low-grade fever, redness or swelling at the back of your throat, limited range of motion in your neck, or your head drooping slightly forward are additional symptoms you can have. Some people also suffer upper respiratory tract infection several weeks before other symptoms appear.
Getting a Diagnosis
In addition to recognizing the clinical symptoms of the disease, doctors make the diagnosis based on the results of x-rays or a CT scan of the neck which excludes spinal fracture and infection. Calcification of tissue fibers of the longus colli muscle or fluid in the retropharyngeal space (the space behind the throat) that shows up on a CT scan confirms diagnosis.
While MRI can show abnormal buildup of fluid, it doesn't always show calcification (the accumulation of calcium in soft body tissue). If imaging tests show inflammation or enlargement of the lymph nodes, or bone erosion and destruction, your doctor should then consider other possible diagnoses.
In some people, blood tests show an elevated sedimentation rate and C-reactive protein (CRP), which can be markers for the disease. Either may indicate the presence of inflammation in the body. Lab tests may also show a white blood count that is slightly above the normal range. Although there can be many causes, an elevated white blood count often points to inflammation.
Once the diagnosis is confirmed, your doctor may prescribe a low dose of anti-inflammatory drugs and suggest wearing a soft cervical collar for a short time for comfort and to restrict neck movement. If your symptoms are mild, over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin or ibuprofen, may be all you need to ease the pain.
When symptoms are more severe, your doctor may prescribe corticosteroids, which work more quickly to reduce inflammation and pain. Physical therapy from places like Advance Physical Therapy & Sports Rehabilitation can also benefit those in severe pain. If they persist, your doctor may need to order additional diagnostic tests.Share