Neck pain is a common complaint where the person gets to suffer stiffness, headache, or limited ability to move the head. It can be caused by factors such as poor posture or, rarely, a serious underlying disease.
About 15 percent of the American population suffers from neck pain in one day, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most of the time, neck pain isn’t a serious condition and would go away within a few days.
Learn more about neck pain in this article.
Neck: A little study of the anatomy
You might think the neck only holds up the head, but this cervical spine helps in holding everything in order. The neck composes of vertebrae that start from the upper torso and up to the base of the skull. These vertebrae, along with the ligaments and muscles of the body allow stability, motion, and support of the spine.
Compared to the rest of the spine and its neighboring tissues and muscles, the neck is less protected and susceptible to injury and disorders. Remember, within the neck lies arteries, veins, glands, and lymph nodes. These are highly sensitive parts of the body.
Underlying conditions within these tissues can lead to neck pain. Likewise, injury of the exterior features of the neck can cause problems in these tissues.
What causes neck pain?
Neck pain starts from injuries or abnormalities in the tissues and in the spine. In some instances, neck problems are caused by bad postures of the body. Here, we point out more reasons why your neck hurts.
Muscle strains. Muscle sprains are often caused by bad posture or too many hours hunched down on that position. For example:
Injuries. As mentioned above, the neck is vulnerable to injuries especially in falls, collisions, exercise, or sports activities. If the muscles or ligaments move outside their range or jerk suddenly (whiplash), or the spine fractured itself during the accident, it can cause neck pain or serious neck injury.
Aging. All your joints come to wear when you age. Arthritis and bone problems can cause the muscles and tissues to decline, thus affecting motion and causing neck pain.
Pinched nerves or nerve compression. When the bone spurs (sometimes known as herniated discs) protrude or branch out from the spine, it might pinch the nerves adding pain to the injury. It also adds more pressure to the spinal cord.
Infections, conditions, and diseases. Infections and diseases like arthritis, meningitis, or fibromyalgia can cause neck pain. In rare instances, tumors and cancers can also cause that pain.
The neck is flexible as it supports the head, but a motion beyond its normal capacity can cause pain, injury, or even paralysis. In the neck, there’s a cervical disk that acts as a shock absorber between the bones as it helps protect the tissues inside. However, when that degenerates, it too can cause problems and pressure in the neck
What are the symptoms of neck pain?
Neck pain is more than just that sharp pang you can’t get through over with. Common symptoms of neck pain involve more or one of the following listed below.
Headaches. Irritation in the neck can cause headaches when it affects the muscles and tissues connected with the head. It creates pain on the scalp or the sides of the head that’s similar to a pinched nerve.
Stiffed neck. A stiffed neck happens when you have difficulty turning the head side to side or up and down. It’s mostly caused by locked position such as sleeping on one side, reading with head down, and more.
Pain. Pain can be tender such as achy or soreness and it can only be localized on one spot. There’s also a sharp pain in the neck characterized by a stinging or stabbing feeling. Additionally, there’s also a pain characterized by pin-like sensations spreading through one arm.
Muscle tightness in arms and hands. This usually happens when the tingling sensation spread to your hands and arms, and you find it difficult to lift, carry, or hold items in your hands.
Serious symptoms. In some conditions, a neck pain can cause fever, nausea, vomiting, lumps, swollen glands, or difficulty in breathing. These symptoms can mean an underlying disease.
Such symptoms that persist more than a week or been quite serious, that’s the time when you seek professional help. You should also go to the doctor if you suffer a fall or accident.
How to treat neck pain?
Technically, you need to see a doctor with that. He or she will perform a series of tests, imaging, and studies. Medical treatment is given after the doctor makes a thorough history of the patient. Likely, he or she will ask you about your:
After taking account of your history, the doctor will perform a series of physical or diagnostic examinations such as:
After doing the tests, your doctor might refer you to a specialist for treatment. Likewise, the doctor can treat you with medications, ice and heat therapy, physical therapy, neck collar, antibiotics, or even surgery.
How can you prevent neck pain?
You can actually prevent a neck pain from happening if you’re aware or conscious of what you do. Most neck pain is caused by lifestyle and habits which you can change for the better. Here are some common prevention tips you can follow:
Take frequent breaks. If you work on your computer, sitting for hours, it’s best to pause and take a quick break. You can move around, stretch a little, and take a breather outside the office.
Practice good posture. How you stand, sit, lift, bow, or get up can affect your shoulders, hips, and spine. This, of course, affects your neck and how it helps stabilize the whole body when you do the motion.
Sleep well in a good position. If you can’t sleep well at night because of your head and shoulder position, it helps to buy a good support pillow under your neck. You can also try flattening your spinal muscles by sleeping on your back with elevating your feet.
Avoid carrying heavy loads over your shoulder. The weight can put a strain on your muscles and, specifically, your neck. As much as possible, lighten the load and balance the weight on two shoulders.
Learn to adjust according to your level. This could mean chairs, tables, computer, or reading habits that can strain the neck in that position for too long.
People experience neck pain due to their own habits and lifestyle. The pain and injury often last for days and goes away on its own. But, making an appointment with your doctor is still considered important. Remember these tips if you want to avoid or lessen your soreness.
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