Neck pain is widespread, with most people experiencing it on some level during different seasons of life. It does not take an injury or severe illness to be afflicted with neck pain. The most common cause is muscle strain.
Discomfort can be brought on simply by poor posture, sleeping in an awkward position, or other poor daily habits. Many individuals deal with acute neck pain, which is often resolved within two to six weeks.
However, neck pain can be debilitating and have an impact on everyday life. Muscle strain can often be treated using at-home remedies, but other causes of neck pain may require more in-depth treatment. This article will help you understand neck pain, the common causes, and treatments to help you know if you should seek help
What is Neck Pain?
As previously mentioned, neck pain is widespread. However, it is more common in women than men and can increase with age. It originates in the cervical spine, the part of the spinal column located in the neck. It contains seven vertebrae separated by intervertebral discs that act as shock absorbers to allow unrestricted movement.
Neck pain can often be attributed to poor health habits. However, it may also be a symptom of severe injury or disease in the body. The amount of time neck pain lingers may indicate the cause.
If it lasts six weeks or less, it is considered acute and is often due to muscle strain which may correct with time and at-home remedies. If it lasts more than a few months, it is considered chronic and may require more care by medical professionals.
Symptoms of Neck Pain
There are several symptoms of neck pain, including:
- Consistent aching pain.
- Sharp or burning pain.
- Pressure sensitivity.
- Neck pain accompanied by headaches.
- Neck pain accompanied by pain, numbness, or tingling in your arms, hands, or fingers.
- Tension in your neck muscles.
- Muscle weakness in your arms or legs.
- Trouble maintaining your balance or walking.
The symptoms that involve your extremities and affect balance and walking can result from a herniated disc putting pressure on a nerve root or spinal cord.
If your symptoms last for an extended period, you may be diagnosed with chronic neck pain based on a review of your medical history, symptoms, and examination by medical professionals.
Possible Causes of Chronic Neck Pain
As we’ve discussed, neck pain can be caused by a variety of causes ranging on a scale from mild to severe. Let’s look at some of the common causes, including health issues, injuries, and illnesses:
Injury to the neck results from trauma caused by quick, sharp, jerking movements. For example, whiplash resulting from a car accident.
Symptoms of neck injuries are identified as stiffness, pain in your shoulders, arms, or face, headaches, and dizziness.
For some people, neck pain is brought on by conditions that come with age, such as stress and movement. Several cervical spine conditions can result in neck pain due to osteoarthritis, herniated discs causing pinched nerves, and the narrowing of the spinal canal.
Individuals under a lot of consistent stress may experience tension that causes the muscles in the neck to tighten. This can result in pain and limited ability to move the neck.
Repetitive actions using the neck that are strenuous can result in overuse of the neck muscles, causing neck pain.
Poor posture may be caused by long periods of sitting or reclining, using a computer, looking down at a phone, etc. It can also result from poor sleeping positions or strenuous work that impacts the neck muscles. People with poor posture will often experience chronic neck pain.
Individuals who carry excess weight and do not have strong abdominal muscles may experience neck pain, as these factors can also impact posture.
People with the habit of smoking and using smokeless tobacco may experience neck pain since these can cause damage to the cervical discs found in the neck.
Treatment Options for Neck Pain
If you are experiencing mild neck pain, there are several at-home remedies you can try. If your pain is chronic, it may be best to seek medical advice from a professional. Based on a review of your symptoms, history, and an examination, your doctor will determine what type of treatment is required.
At-Home Remedies for Neck Pain Relief
- Applying heat with a heating pad.
- Icing with ice packs.
- Gentle stretching and exercising. *This should not increase pain. If it does, stop and discuss exercises with your doctor.
- Taking anti-inflammatory medications (aspirin or ibuprofen).
- Limiting physical activity.
- Reducing stress.
- Losing weight.
- Quitting smoking and use of smokeless tobacco.
- Using muscle relaxants.
- Seeing a physical therapist.
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS).
- Steroid injections.
When to Seek Medical Advice for Neck Pain
Are you experiencing neck pain that is severe enough to interfere with your day-to-day activities and reduces your quality of life? It may be time to seek advice from a health professional.
Use the following list as a reference to help you decide if it is time to seek help:
- You are experiencing pain following injury or trauma to your head and neck. *This could be considered an emergency.
- You are experiencing fever and headache with neck pain.
- You are experiencing pain that has caused a stiff neck and hinders your movement.
- You are experiencing neck pain and pain radiating into your arm.
- You are experiencing muscle weakness and tingling/numbing sensations in your arms, hands, or fingers.
- You are experiencing muscle weakness in your extremities or are unable to walk.
- You are still experiencing pain after taking anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin and ibuprofen.
- You are still experiencing the same level of pain after one week.
Get Relief for Chronic Neck Pain
At Arizona Pain and Spine Institute, we have successfully helped many patients find relief through pain management. If you are experiencing poor quality of life due to chronic neck pain, give us a call today! We are here to provide you with the advice and treatment you need to begin healing.