Almost everyone has neck pain at one time or another. It may be something as simple as waking up after sleeping with your head in an awkward position, or it could be due to an accident or injury. Here are some tips for dealing with neck pain.
What causes neck pain?
Neck pain occurs when there is some type of problem with or injury to any of the sections of the neck. The neck is structurally complex and comprised of several parts. These neck structures include:
- Neck Bones – The neck is comprised of seven bones stacked all on top of each other. These bones are also part of the spine and are referred to as the “cervical vertebrae.” If these bones get worn down or get growths on them, called spurs, neck pain can occur.
- Ligaments – These are very strong tissues that connect the bones to one another. If the neck is moved too quickly or forcefully back and forth, it can damage these ligaments. This is the case when a person has whiplash due to a car acc > Discs – Between the bones all along the spine, and in the neck, are some special cushions, called discs. A muscle strain, tension or poor posture ca cause pain.
- Nerves – Down the middle of the spine is the spinal cord which essentially is a bundle of nerves. These nerves branch out from the spinal cord and reach out to all parts of the body.
What types of symptoms are associated with neck pain?
When there is pain in the neck, since it contains part of the spinal cord, it can cause a wide variety of symptoms. These include:
- Pain, tightness or stiffness that affects the neck, upper back, arms or shouders
- Weak neck muscles
- Limited mobility in the neck
- Pain when you turn or tilt the head
- Numbness (often described as having “pins and needles”) in the shoulders or arms
- Difficulty walking or moving your legs
- Losing control of the bladder or bowels
When should I consult a medical professional for neck pain?
Neck pain can often be a sign of a serious injury or condition, but that doesn’t mean every little pain merits a doctor visit. However, if you experience any of these things, you should schedule an appointment with your private care position.
- If you have a serious injury to either your neck or head
- If you are in severe pain
- If you experience weakness or numbness in your legs or arms
- If you lose control over bowels or bladder
- Pain that hasn’t improved being treated at home for over a week
Will I need to have any tests?
Most of the time, people do not need tests or imaging. Your health care provider will want to do an exam and ask you quite a few questions about your neck and the symptoms you are experiencing. He will feel of your muscles in your neck and examine your head and neck movement. In some instances, the medical professional may order tests. These might include:
- Imaging – Imaging tests like x-rays, MRIs or CT scans can present a picture of what is happening in the body and gives a visual representation of the bones and structures in the neck
- The doctor may order a muscle test or a nerve test to determine if they are working normally or not.
What can I do to help my neck feel better?
There are a few ways to help relieve the symptoms of neck pain. To relieve symptoms, you might:
- Taking over the counter pain or anti-inflammatory medications can help reduce pain and discomfort
- A massage therapist can provide a massage that helps relieve tight or tense muscles
- Icing the area can help reduce inflammation and pain. Rubbing ice on the area for five to seven minutes can help bring immediate relief or you can hold an ice pack or cold gel pack on it several times a day. Apply the ice for about 20 minutes at a time.
- Applying heat can also help reduce stiffness. You may also take a hot bath or shower to find relief, or put a hot towel on the region. Do not use heat for more than 20 minutes at one time, and don’t use anything that is too hot or it can burn your skin.
- Some neck exercises can help stretch out the muscles of the neck, back and shoulders so they gain strength. Ask your health care provider about which exercises are best to relieve your symptoms.
- Reducing stress can help improve neck pain symptoms. Stress can cause you to become tense and the neck can be stiff as a result.
- Improving your posture can be beneficial. Keeping your neck in line with your body even while you sleep can help improve symptoms. Avoiding activities that make you move your neck a lot can be helpful.
What kinds of treatments help neck pain
Your health care provider can order a variety of treatments for your neck pain, if it doesn’t improve on its own. They may recommend you see a physical therapist who can give you some exercises and stretches that can help strengthen your neck. He may also prescribe an injection of medication that helps numb the neck and provide relief.
What can I do to prevent neck pain?
There are a few things you can do, and some habits you can change to help prevent you from developing neck pain. Some of the suggestions include: