Allergies Can be a Real Pain in the Neck
The fields of orthopedics and allergy seem to have little in common. You break a leg, you go see the orthopedist and have a cast put on. You have severe sneezing fits, you see the allergist who gives you a nasal spray. Do the two paths ever cross?
The Doctor Joke
This reminds me of a doctor joke… two doctors walk into a bar, one an orthopedist the other an allergist. A young man in a neck brace was also in the bar sipping a beer. The orthopedist walks over and says “What happened? Can I help you I’m an orthopedist?”
The young man looks past him and asks if his friend is also a doctor, and if so what type? The orthopedist replies: “Oh, he’s just an allergist, he can’t help you.”
The young man goes on to say: “I’ll take the other doctor’s card. If it wasn’t for my damn sneezing I wouldn’t be in this neck brace.”
The orthopedist walks sheepishly back to his seat and gives the allergist the patient’s phone number saying “he needs you more than he needs me!”
The Point of the Story…
Severe allergies can actually cause neck pain and lower back pain. I have cared for patients who came to me for treatment for environmental allergies that caused such severe sneezing attacks they got herniated discs in their upper and lower spine.
Of course, back injuries like this are not typical, but the patients that come to me for help usually have quite severe uncomfortable symptoms.
What Can You Do?
To avoid an “orthopedic allergy problem” there are a number of steps you can take that will help you protect yourself from neck pain or back pain due to allergies.
Don’t sit by and go through a dozen sneezes without trying to block the cascade. If you can get even a short break from the sneezing, use a cortisone nasal spray, such as Flonase or Nasacort, right away.
Both of these types of cortisone nasal sprays are now available over-the-counter. They work within an hour to block allergic chemicals from being released and will continue to work for several hours.
Oral antihistamines can also help, but they are not as strong as the cortisone nasal sprays. If you can’t stand putting a nasal spray into your sensitive nose then use one of the common antihistamines, Allegra, Claritin or Zyrtec. These are also available over-the-counter.
Run for cover! If your sneezing attack started when you were in the park (surrounded by tree and grass pollen) get indoors to air-conditioning.
If you are at your friend’s house and you get an attack around their cat or dog, excuse yourself and get outside for some fresh, non-animal hair air.
The worse thing you can do is to continue to stay in an environment where the air is full of an allergen you are allergic to.
Consider Allergy immunotherapy. This treatment used to be all about the allergy shots but in my practice, we only give patients sublingual allergy drops. These drops work to decrease your allergic sensitivity to dust, animal dander, pollen, and molds. I have many patients who no longer use any allergy medications and have protection from allergens thanks to allergy drops.
If I saw one of my patients that I treated with allergy drops in a neck brace and he told me it was from sneezing, I would have to take down my medical shingle!
Dr. Dean Mitchell, M.D.
Mitchell Medical Group, NYC
About the Author – Dr. Dean Mitchell, M.D.
Dr. Dean Mitchell, M.D. is a Board Certified Allergist and Immunologist based out of NYC. He graduated from the Sackler School of Medicine and completed training at the Robert Cooke Allergy Institute in New York City. He is also a Clinical Assistant Professor at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine, a fellow of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, and the author of Dr. Dean Mitchell’s Allergy and Asthma Solution: The Ultimate Program for Reversing Your Symptoms One Drop at a Time. Dr. Dean Mitchell, M.D. has also been featured in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Fitness Magazine, Dr. Oz and News NY 1. Dr. Mitchell also hosts the podcast The Smartest Doctor in the Room – a combination of a lively, personal and in-depth interview with top healthcare specialists.