Do you feel a strain or neck pain in the muscles of your neck when you wake up or sitting for hours at work with poor posture?
Neck pain or Cervicalgia is a common condition and you usually do not have to worry about it.
Your neck is made of vertebrae that extend from your skull to the upper torso.
Cervical discs have the ability to absorb shock between the bones.
The bones, ligaments, and muscles of your neck support the head and allow motion of the head.
However, any abnormality, inflammation, or injury can cause neck pain or stiffness.
Occasionally, you might experience neck pain, but, in many cases, it is due to poor posture or overuse of the muscles.
Sometimes, it can be due to an injury from a fall, contact sports, or whiplash.
Neck pain is not serious in many conditions can be relieved in a few days.
However, in some cases, it may indicate an injury or illness and needs the doctor’s attention.
Keep on reading to learn more about neck pain.
Causes of Neck Pain
Neck pain or stiffness can happen for a number of reasons.
Let’s discuss them as follows:
Muscle Tension and Strain
Poor posture, working at the desk for long periods of time, sleeping in a bad position, or jerking your neck during exercise.
These are the causes of muscle tension and strain and often lead to neck pain.
Your neck is particularly vulnerable to an injury, especially if you fall, have a car incident, or are sports.
This is usually the case where the muscles and ligaments of your neck are forced to move outside the normal range.
If you experience a fracture to the neck bones or cervical vertebrae, it can damage your spinal cord.
It is often due to a sudden jerk of the head and is called whiplash.
Neck pain can be a symptom of a heart attack but is also present along with other symptoms of a heart attack.
These symptoms are shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, vomiting, and arm or jaw pain.
In case your neck hurts along with other symptoms of heart attack, you should call an ambulance.
Or go to an emergency room immediately.
Meningitis is an inflammation in the tissues that surround your brain and spinal cord.
If you have this condition, a fever, and a headache, you may have a stiff neck.
Moreover, it can be fatal and is a medical emergency.
It is important to seek medical help immediately.
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Other Causes of Neck Pain
Other causes of neck pain are as follows:
Osteoporosis: It is a weakness of bones and can lead to small fractures.
This often affects your hands or knees, but can also occur in the neck.
Fibromyalgia: This condition causes muscle pain throughout your body, especially in your neck and shoulder region.
Rheumatoid Arthritis: RA causes pain, swelling of the joints, and bone spurs.
If these occur in the neck area, it results in neck pain.
Spondylosis: As you are, the cervical disc can degenerate.
This is spondylosis or osteoarthritis of the neck.
Moreover, it can narrow the space between the vertebrae and also adds stress to your joints.
Herniated Cervical Disc: If your disc protrudes, because of trauma or injury, it can add pressure to your spinal cord or nerve roots.
This is herniated cervical disc or ruptured or slipped disk.
Spinal Stenosis: It occurs when the spinal column narrows and causes pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots.
This is often due to long-term inflammation and is often due to arthritis or other conditions.
However, in rare cases, it can be due to congenital abnormalities, infections, abscesses, tumors, or cancer of the spine.
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Diagnosis of Neck Pain
To diagnose the cause of your neck pain, your doctor will perform a physical exam and take your complete medical history.
Moreover, they will also ask about the specific symptoms that you might be experiencing.
It is important to inform your doctor about the prescription medicines and OCT, over-the-counter medications, and supplements you are currently using.
Inform them about any recent injuries or accidents you have had.
Treatment of neck pain depends on the diagnosis.
Along with thorough history and physical exam, your doctor will also need one of the following image studies and tests.
These help them to determine the cause of your neck pain.
Blood tests. CT scans, MRI scan, Electromyography, and lumbar puncture.
Depending on the results, your doctor may refer you to a specialist.
Treatment of the neck pain includes:
Ice and heat therapy, exercise, stretching, and physical therapy.
Pain medications, corticosteroid injections, muscle relaxants, neck collar, and traction.
Moreover, traction, antibiotics in case of infection, and surgery in rare cases.
Alternative therapies are:
Acupuncture, chiropractic treatment, massage, and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulations, TENS.
It is important to make sure you are getting the treatment from a licensed professional.
Easing Neck Pain at Home
If you have minor neck pain or stiffness, you can take the following steps at home to ease the pain.
Applying ice for the first few days and then applying a heating pad, a hot compress, or taking a hot shower can help.
OTC pain relievers, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
Taking few days off from sports activities and heavy lifting may be aggravating your situation.
It is important to slowly resume normal activity slowly.
Exercise your neck every day. Stretching your neck slowly in side-to-side and up-and-down motions.
Using good posture, avoiding cradling phone while talking.
A gentle neck massage and using a special neck pillow for sleeping can help relieve neck pain.
It is important to not use a neck brace, or a collar without your doctor’s approval.
If you do not use them properly, then using them can worsen your symptoms.
Exercises to Ease Neck Pain
Taking time to stretch the muscles of your neck each day can help ease the pain.
You might wanna wait to do any of the following exercises until the worst of your pain goes away.
However, before trying any one of the following moves, consider warming up your neck with the help of a heating pad.
Or consider performing them after taking a warm shower or bath.
For this exercise follow the steps:
Look forward and simply bring your chin slowly down to your chest.
Hold this position for 5 to 10 seconds and return back to your standing position.
Tilt your head back and look up towards the ceiling, Hold for 5 to 10 seconds, and return to the initial position.
Gently bring your left ear toward the left shoulder without actually making contact.
Tilt your head only when you feel a little stretch in your neck.
Hold this position for 5 to 10 seconds and then return to the initial position.
Repeat this move to the right side and repeat the entire sequence three to five times.
After stretching your neck to the basic range of motions, you can also work on rotating your neck.
For this, face forward, turn your head to one side, like you are looking over the shoulder.
Hold this position for 5 to 10 seconds, and slowly turn 180 degrees on the other way.
Again hold this position for 5 to 10 seconds and repeat this sequence.
After warming up, you can apply an overpressure to extend the stretches you tried.
- While sitting down, put your right hand under your right leg, and this will help keep your shoulder down.
- Position your left arm over your head in such a way that it covers your right eat with your left hand.
- Moving your left ear towards your left shoulder, as you do with the rotations, gently pull with your left hand to add an extra stretch.
- Hold this position for 30 seconds, and repeat this position for 30 seconds.
- Make sure to do this stretch 3 times on each side.
Practice Good Posture
Slumping over can create a lot of aches and pains.
Take a look at the mirror, if you are not standing straight you may be straining your muscles, and ligaments that support different parts of your body.
Let’s discuss good posture as follows:
Avoid crossing your legs, try putting your feet down on the floor or even a footrest.
Make sure to keep a little space between the back of your keens and the front of your seat.
Moreover, keep your knees at or below your hips and if your chair is adjustable, make sure it is supporting your lower and middle parts of the back.
Get up from time to time to stretch and relax your shoulders.
Make sure to focus your weight on the balls of your feet and keep your knees slightly bent.
Make sure that your feet are shoulder distance apart and let your arms fall to the sides of your body.
Tuck your core in and stand up straight with your shoulders slightly pulled backward.
It is important to resist the urge to hold your head forward, backward, or even to the side.
When Lying Down
It is important to make sure that your mattress works best for you.
Firm ones are best for back and neck pain, and sleeping with a pillow can help.
However, if you are a stomach sleeper, then you may want to try and change your position.
Try keeping a pillow between your knees to help keep your body in better alignment.
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When to See the Doctor
If you have severe neck pain without any apparent cause, lump in your neck, fever, headache, or swollen glands, then you should visit your doctor.
Moreover, nausea, vomiting, trouble swallowing or breathing, weakness, number, or tingling are some cases.
If you are experiencing pain that radiates down to your arms or legs, inability to move, to touch your chin or bladder, or bowel dysfunction, consult your doctor.
However, if you have been in an accident or fell, and your neck hurts, make sure to seek medical attention immediately.
The Final Outlook
In most cases, you may feel extreme or severe neck pain because of poor posture and muscle strain. In such a case, neck pain usually goes away when you experience good posture and rest the muscles of your neck.
However, make an appointment with your doctor if the pain does not go away with home treatments.