Man getting neck massage

Stiff Neck Causes and Treatments

“Pain is a significant public health problem that costs society at least $560-$635 billion annually… According to a recent Institute of Medicine ReportRelieving Pain in America: A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education, and Research.” In this report, neck pain was the second most common complaint cited, behind back pain and tied with migraines. If you are one of the millions of people afflicted with neck pain you are not alone.  You have many possible diagnoses and treatments available.  If the root cause of your pain is something easily traced, you may have all the tools you need to eliminate your neck pain.  If your pain is more complex, a skilled professional may help diagnose the cause and then create an appropriate plan.  Treatment for neck pain can include medication, therapy, exercise and more.

What Causes a Stiff Neck/Neck Pain?

Strained neck muscles, inflamed neck joints and other more major disruptions can cause minor to debilitating neck pain.  Regular day-to-day activities, when performed improperly, can impair your muscles or joints, causing neck pain.

Sleeping: If you sleep with a pillow that provides too little support, your neck may be twisted into an unnatural position.  If you stay in this position over time while you sleep, you can wake up to pain and discomfort.

Working: Proper posture is a must for any job.  If you sit at a desk and lean forward looking at a computer all day, you can strain your neck muscles and cause repeated neck pain that will worsen over time. Any activity you perform for 8 hours a day needs to be ergonomically correct and designed to protect your head, neck and spine.

Exercise: Make sure to maintain good form whenever you exercise.  Whether you are a runner, swimmer or casual walker, strong form is the best protection against injury.  Injuries to the neck can cause excruciating pain and sideline you from any further exercise for long durations of time.  Start any exercise regimen slowly and build your muscle and form over time.

Stress: Many people tense their shoulders and neck when stressed.  You need to find positive ways to release stress and tension from your body.  Deep breathing, humor and hobbies can all help you channel your stress into positive outlets.  If you carry your stress in your upper body try to be aware of when you are stressed and consciously relax your head, neck and shoulders one by one.  Practice this technique until it is second nature to help protect your body from pain and discomfort.

Car accidents: An all-too-frequent cause of neck pain is car accidents.  The most common neck-associated injury from vehicular accidents is whiplash.  Whiplash occurs when the body is thrown forward with the force of an accident and then back again.  The force of a collision can strain and tear the muscles and tendons in the neck causing short or long-term pain.  While car accidents are a common cause, whiplash can be caused by any sudden impact.

What is the Best Treatment for Neck Pain?

Neck pain can make any day challenging.  Without full range of motion, common activities such as driving are difficult, if not dangerous.  If you’re seeking relief from neck pain you have several options.

Over the counter pain relievers: Regular over the counter pain relievers may provide temporary relief for some types of neck pain.  Depending on the cause of your discomfort, these types of medications may be the solution you are looking for.

Ice/heat: Some neck pain suffers find relief by using ice or heat or alternating both to the injured area.  Heat can help alleviate inflammation while ice may reduce swelling and provide some numbing.

Prescription medication:  If over the counter pain relievers are not effective in managing your pain, your physician or specialist may prescribe you prescription pain relievers and/or anti-inflammatories.  It is important to follow all doctor’s orders when taking these types of medications and use them only as directed.

Rest:  Some sources of neck pain can resolve on their own, provided you rest your muscles and tendons and allow the inflammation and/or injury to subside.  While it can be hard to take the time, rest can do wonders in helping the body heal.

Physical therapy:  Physical therapy can help you strengthen your neck muscles and retrain your posture.  Good habits and body mechanics can relieve existing pain and help you prevent future injuries.  This solution can be very effective but takes time and consistent commitment to see the best results.

Curing and treating neck pain depends greatly on the cause.  Determining the root issue behind the pain is the first step in effectively eliminating it.  Once the cause of your neck pain is determined the appropriate treatment can be used.  You may need one or all of the above treatments to help alleviate your discomfort.  If you are unable to manage your neck pain independently, please contact our office.  We are here to help you identify and eliminate your pain.

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