What is Neck Pain?
Neck pain is a common complaint when your neck muscles become strained or tensed due to poor posture. For example, if your work involves using a desk and a computer, your monitor and keyboard should be close to you to avoid forward slouching. Osteoarthritis is also a common cause of neck pain.
Neck pain rarely indicates serious problems. Seek medical attention if you feel numbness in your neck or lose power in your arm, or if your neck pain has a stabbing sensation.
Consult a neurologist through Smarter Health if you have symptoms of neck pain.
Causes of Neck Pain
Your neck is flexible and works to support the weight of your head – making it susceptible to injury and other conditions that can cause pain or limit your movement. Causes of neck pain include:
- A compressed nerve or pinched nerve usually occurs due to bone spurs in your cervical spine pressing on the nerves that branch from your spinal cord.
- Muscle tension due to activities such as spending long hours using a computer or smartphone. Even light activities like reading in bed or grinding your teeth can cause tension in your neck muscles.
- Common injuries caused by rear-end collisions. It usually results in a whiplash – occurs when your head moves backward and then forward.
- Neck joints tend to wear down as you age. Osteoarthritis causes the spine to be pliable and the vertebrae to deteriorate. Your body then forms bone spurs that affect joint motion and cause pain.
- Certain diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, meningitis or cancer, can cause neck pain.
When to See a Doctor for Neck Pain
Your neurologist will review your medical history and perform a number of tests such as imaging tests to identify the cause of your neck pain, including:
- X-rays can show areas in your neck where there may be nerves or spinal cord pinched by bone spurs or other degenerative changes.
- CT scans combine X-ray images from multiple angles to produce a detailed cross-sectional view of the internal structures of your neck.
- MRI works using radio waves and a powerful magnetic field to create detailed images of bone and soft tissue.
Symptoms of Neck Pain
Signs and symptoms of neck pain may include:
- Muscle tightness and spasms.
- Difficulty moving your neck or head.
- Pain may become worse when your neck is held in one position for prolonged periods, such as while driving, reading, or working at a computer
Most cases of neck pain improve gradually with self-care measures at home. If your neck pain does not get better, see a neurologist immediately – particularly if neck pain occurs due to an injury, such as an accident while driving or a fall. Call your doctor if your neck pain:
- Spreads to the arms or legs.
- Lasts for several days without treatment.
- Causes headache, numbness, weakness, or a tingling sensation.
Treatment For Neck Pain
Mild to moderate neck pain usually resolves in 2 or 3 weeks. If neck pain persists, your doctor may recommend other medications and treatments..
Your doctor may recommend stronger pain relievers than regular pain relievers, as well as muscle relaxants and tricyclic antidepressants for to relieve pain.
- Physical therapy. Your physical therapist will teach you proper posture, neck alignment and strengthening exercises, electrical stimulation, and other measures to help relieve neck pain and prevent recurrences.
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). Electrodes placed on the skin near the painful area produce small electrical impulses that can relieve pain.
- Traction therapy uses weights, pulleys, or air bags to gently stretch the neck, which can relieve neck pain – particularly pain associated with nerve root irritation.
- Short-term immobilization. A soft collar that supports your neck can help relieve pain by reducing pressure on the structures in your neck.
Surgery and Other Medical Procedures
- Steroid injections are necessary to relieve pain. Pain relievers such as lidocaine can also relieve neck pain.
- Surgery may not be necessary to treat neck pain, but it may be required to remove compression of the nerve roots or spinal cord.
Treatment Cost For Neck Pain
Treatment cost for neck pain may vary greatly, depending on the type of treatment recommended by your doctor and your choice of hospital.
To calculate the estimated treatment cost for neck pain at home and abroad, contact Smarter Health.
Prevention of Neck Pain
In general, neck pain is associated with poor posture and age-related wear and tear of the joints. To help prevent neck pain, keep your head above the spine. Some simple changes in your daily routine can help prevent neck pain, such as:
- Quit smoking – as smokers are at higher risk of neck pain.
- Avoid carrying heavy bags with straps on your shoulders, as weights can strain your neck
- Avoid cradling your phone between your ears and shoulders as you speak. It is better if you use a headset or speaker.
- Use good posture. Make sure your shoulders are straight above your hips and ears just above your shoulders while standing and sitting.
- Adjust your desks, chairs, and computers to keep the monitor aligned with your eyes. Your knees should be slightly lower than your hips. If possible, you can use a seat armrest.
- Rest as much as you can if you travel long distances or work long hours in front of the computer. Try to get up, move, and stretch your neck and shoulders.
- Sleep in a good position. Your head and neck should be aligned with your body. Use a small pillow as a support under your neck. Try sleeping on your back with your thighs elevated on a pillow that will flatten your spinal muscles.
Home Remedies for Neck Pain
The following are some home care treatments that you can try to relieve neck pain, such as:
- Try taking over-the-counter pain relievers, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), naproxen sodium (Aleve), and acetaminophen (Tylenol, others).
- Reduce inflammation by applying ice packs wrapped in a towel for 20 minutes several times a day. You can also apply a warm compress. Try taking a warm shower or using a heating pad.
- After the pain subsides, start practicing light stretching exercises. Your doctor or physical therapist can advise you on proper stretching techniques. First of all, warm your neck and back with a heating pad or when you take a shower or warm bath. Then gently tilt, bend and twist your neck.
Have more questions about neck pain? Write them down in the comment section below or contact a neurologist at home and abroad through Smarter Health.