Most of us at some time in our lives will experience neck pain for one reason or another. Many times it is nothing to worry about and it is something that will pass in a few days. Other times it may be something much more severe and you will need the help of a medical professional such as neurologist or chiropractor to help ease the pain and make it go away.
Your neck is a very sensitive area of the body. Your nerve highway runs through it and the neck also has many bones, ligaments and muscles which help support it too. Your neck, also known as the cervical spine, is made up of several vertebrae. All these different body parts come together to allow for the different movements that are required by your neck. Stress, strains, inflammation and other ailments of the neck can result in pain or stiffness in it.
Most simple ailments of your neck result from poor posture, overuse or everyday wear and tear. More severe neck problems are often the result of such things as contact sports, whiplash from accidents or severe falls. Severe neck problems are the ones that are more likely to need medical attention if the pain does not subside in a few days. It is advisable to seek medical treatment immediately if the pain in your neck is excruciating or accompanied by other symptoms such as weakness in your arms and legs or dizziness.
What can cause a stiff neck or neck pain?
There are a variety of reasons as to why you may be experiencing neck pain or stiffness:
Muscle Tension and Strains
These tend to occur for any number of reasons. Here are a few examples of things that can cause muscle tension and strains:
- poor posture
- sitting at your desk for a long time without changing your position
- sleeping in a position that irritates your neck muscles
- twisting your neck awkwardly while playing a sport
Your neck is by far one of the most delicate areas of your body and is very susceptible to injury with all that is demanded from it. Severe injuries occur when the muscles and ligaments in your neck have a situation that acts upon them that forces ligaments and muscles to move far outside of their normal range. If an injury to your neck is severe enough it can result in a dislocation, fracture or even spinal cord damage. A sudden extreme jerking motion of the neck results in what is known as whiplash; this is one of the more common neck injuries and almost always requires medical attention.
Diseases and Other Ailments that can Cause Neck Pain
- Arthritis – this condition causes painful bone spurs, swelling of the joints, and other various pains throughout your body. It can also be a key contributor to neck pain.
- Osteoporosis – this condition weakens bones so much they can even fracture easily.
- Fibromyalgia – this is a body condition that can cause severe muscle pain throughout the body.
- Herniated cervical disk – sometimes referred to as a slipped disk or disc rupture. It happens when the cervical discs in your neck degenerate as you age and this adds stress to your neck joints. This condition will put added pressure on your nerve roots or your spinal cord which can result in various levels of neck pain.
- Spinal stenosis – this condition happens because the spinal column narrows and in turn puts pressure on the spinal cord. This often happens as a result of long term inflammation from such ailments as arthritis.
- Meningitis – this condition is a true medical emergency that left untreated can become so severe it can cause death. Meningitis is the inflammation of the delicate thin tissue that is all around both your brain and spinal cord. The stiff neck that sufferers of this ailment often suffer from is usually accompanied by a high fever and a severe headache.
- Heart attack – a common occurrence when someone suffers a heart attack is neck pain. If you have neck pain combined with any of the following then you should seek emergency medical attention immediately!!
– shortness of breath
– profuse sweating
– vomiting and/or nausea
– arm or jaw pain
There are a host of other diseases and ailments which can cause neck pain too. See your doctor immediately if your neck pain does not subside after a few days, gets progressively worse in a short amount of time or is accompanied by other conditions such as fever, nausea and pain elsewhere in your body too.
Helpful Treatments for Minor Neck Pain you can do at Home
If your neck pain is not severe you can try these steps to help you feel better
- For the first few days you are experiencing neck pain apply ice or cold compresses to the affected area. After a few days switch to warm compresses, a heating pad or take a hot shower several times a day.
- Try taking some over the counter medicines for pain relief such as acetaminophen or Ibuprofen.
- Stop all physical activity such as sports, heavy lifting or anything else that may aggravate whatever is bothering your neck area. Start back gradually into physical activity when you are feeling better.
- Try to stretch your neck and exercise it lightly every day.
- Be conscious of having good posture.
- Don’t constantly pinch your mobile phone between your neck and your shoulder as you talk while not using your hands.
- Try not to sit, stand or lay down in the same position for extended amounts of time. Adjust your position occasionally no matter what you are doing.
- Go get a massage from time to time and ask them to gently concentrate on your neck area.
- Use a specially designed neck pillow when you sleep.
- Never use a neck collar or brace unless it is recommended by a medical professional; it can actually make your neck pain worse if these devices are not properly used.
When to Seek Medical Attention for your Neck Pain
If your pain persists for more than a week, gets substantially worse or is present with any of the following conditions, then make an appointment to go see your doctor right away.
- severe neck pain that comes on for no apparent reason
- you feel that you have a lump in your neck
- nausea and vomiting
- trouble breathing or swallowing
- swollen glands
- pain that radiates down your arms or legs
- numbness and tingling
- bladder or bowel dysfunction
- The inability to move either your arms or hands
- You cannot put your chin down to your chest
The Different way medical professionals treat Neck Pain
Once your doctor gives you a physical exam and also takes a look at your neck pain history, they will then make a diagnoses and the come up with a form of treatment that will either lessen or eliminate your neck pain symptoms.
They may even order some of the following tests to be done to help them make a more accurate diagnosis or to help confirm what they already believe:
- blood tests
- magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
- Spinal tap
- computed tomography scan (CT Scan)
- electromyography (EMG)
Depending on what the results of your testing show there is a chance they may refer you to a specialist such as a neurologist.
There are other forms of alternative therapy that your doctor may refer you to also. These can include such medical professionals as experienced St. Louis chiropractors and physical therapists. Many people have experienced success using these types of alternative therapies.