Neck Pain


What is Neck Pain?

Neck pain can occur anywhere in your neck, from the bottom of your head to the top of your shoulders. It can spread to your upper back or arms. It may limit how much you can move your head and neck. Your neck is made up of vertebrae that extend from the skull to the upper torso. Cervical discs 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.


Neck Pain Continued

Many people experience neck pain or stiffness occasionally. In many cases, it’s due to poor posture or overuse. Sometimes, neck pain is caused by injury from a fall, contact sports, or whiplash. Most of the time, neck pain isn’t a serious condition and can be relieved within a few days. In some cases, neck pain can indicate serious injury or illness and require a doctor’s care. If you have neck pain that continues for more than a week, is severe, or is accompanied by other symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.


What are the causes of neck pain?

Most neck pain is caused by activities that strain the neck. These kinds of activities can lead to neck strain, a sprain, or a spasm of the neck muscles. Neck pain can also be caused by an injury/accident or trauma. The most common causes of neck pain include

• the neck becoming locked in an awkward position while sleeping

bad posture – for example, when sitting at a desk for a long time

• a pinched nerve

an injury – for example, whiplash from a traffic accident or fall


What are the symptoms of neck pain?

You may feel a knot, stiffness, or severe pain in your neck. The pain may spread to your shoulders, upper back, or arms. You may get a headache. You may not be able to move or turn your head and neck easily. If there is pressure on a spinal nerve root, you might have pain that shoots down your arm. You may also have numbness, tingling, or weakness in your arm. If your neck pain is long-lasting (chronic), you may have trouble coping with daily life. Common side effects of chronic pain include fatigue, depression and anxiety.


When to seek medical advice for neck pain

Your doctor will ask questions about your symptoms and do a physical exam. He or she may also ask about any injuries, illnesses, or activities that may be causing your neck pain. During the physical exam, your doctor will check how well you can move your neck. He or she will also look for tenderness or numbness, tingling, or weakness in your arms or hands. If your pain started after an injury, or if it doesn't improve after a few weeks, your doctor may want to do more tests. Imaging tests such as an X-ray, an MRI scan, or a CT scan can show the neck muscles and tissues. These tests may be done to check the neck bones, spinal discs, spinal nerve roots, and spinal cord.


What treatments are available for neck pain?

• Use a heating pad on a low or medium setting for 15 to 20 minutes every 2 or 3 hours. Try a warm shower in place of one session with the heating pad.

• You can also buy single-use heat wraps that last up to 8 hours. Or you can try an ice pack for 10 to 15 minutes every 2 to 3 hours. You can try them to see if they help.

• Take acetaminophen (such as Tylenol). Ibuprofen or another anti-inflammatory medicine can also help relieve pain.

• Avoid more injury to your neck by changing activities and habits, such as how you sit or sleep.

• Try exercises or manual therapy to help you move your head and neck more easily.

• See a physical therapist, chiropractor, or osteopathic doctor for this type of care.

• To treat chronic neck pain, your doctor may prescribe medicine to relax your neck muscles. Or you may get medicines to relieve pain and help you sleep. You might also try massage or yoga to relieve neck stress.


How can you prevent neck pain?

Avoid slouching or a head-forward posture. Sit straight in your chair with your lower back supported, feet flat on the floor, and shoulders relaxed. Don't sit for long periods without getting up or changing positions. Take short breaks several times an hour to stretch your neck muscles. 

If you work at a computer adjust the monitor so the top of the screen is at eye level. Use a document holder that puts your work at the same level as the screen.

If you use the telephone a lot, use a headset or speaker phone. Don't cradle the phone on your shoulder.

Adjust the seat of your car to a more upright position that supports your head and lower back. Make sure that you are not reaching for the steering wheel while driving. Your arms should be in a slightly flexed, comfortable position.


Neck Pain Prevention

Use proper lifting techniques lift with your knees, not your back.

When sleeping, make sure your head is the same height as the rest of your body

Have a firm mattress

Sit upright- roll your shoulders back gently and bring your neck back

Avoid sitting in bad positions that strain your neck for a long time

Better posture