Neck pain is a major public health problem affecting over 50% of the population yearly, in terms of your personal health and overall well being. Your neck (cervical spine) is made up of vertebrae that extend from the skull to the upper torso. Cervical disks in your spine absorb shock between the bones. The bones, ligaments, and muscles of your neck support your head and allow for motion. Any abnormalities, inflammation, or injury can cause neck pain or stiffness causing Americans to seek relief in order to move on to a normal life.
Where Does Neck Pain Come From?
Just as common as the complaint can be, the causes of neck pain vary widely. Know that if your pain persists it’s a sign to visit a spine specialist as diseases such as meningitis, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, or cancer can cause neck pain. Other causes of neck pain include:
- Exercise-induced neck pain – avoid jerking your neck during exercise.
- Direct injury from a fall, contact sports, or whiplash.
- Normal wear and tear or overuse.
- Poor posture — whether it’s leaning over your computer or hunching over your workbench – change your position frequently.
- Sleeping with your neck in a bad position.
- If symptoms persist for more than a week, it’s time to consult a specialist.
Symptoms of Neck Pain that Warrant a Physician Visit
- Pain that radiates down your arms and legs
- Inability to touch your chin to your chest
- Inability to move your arms or legs
- Bladder or bowel dysfunction
- Numbness and tingling
- Nausea and vomiting
- Trouble swallowing
- Swollen glands
Steps to Alleviate or Prevent Neck Pain at Home
Keep in mind these steps are only for minor aches or soreness, they can also help prevent neck pain and tension.
- Apply ice for the first several days of discomfort, then apply heat with a heating pad or relax in a hot shower
- Avoid cradling the phone between your neck and shoulder
- Change your position often, do not stand or sit in one position for too long
- Do not use a neck brace without your doctor’s approval
- Take over the counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen
- Use a neck pillow for sleeping
- Use good posture
Treatment Approaches for Neck Pain
Neck pain specialists use a variety of treatment options, depending on your diagnosis. Treatment for neck pain will depend on the diagnosis. Tests to determine the cause of neck pain may include:
- Blood Tests
- Computed Tomography (CT) Scan
- Lumbar Puncture
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
After testing, your spine specialist can help you find the right approach to conservative care. This can include anything from anti-inflammatory medications to gentle massage to surgery when necessary. Pain caused by bone spurs, herniated disks, fractures, or spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal) surgery may be the best course of treatment for your pain. With today’s minimally invasive approaches available, you can expect recovery times quicker and pain relief sooner rather than later.