Neck pain can come about due to an injury, habitually poor posture, tendonitis, vascular issues, muscle strain, arthritis, and more. Because the source can sometimes be difficult to pin down, it can be instructive to get a doctor’s opinion when the pain won’t go away on its own.
Causes of Neck Pain
Neck pain can be divided into at least two categories: chronic and acute pain. Acute pain comes about quickly and lasts only a short while. If you’ve hurt your neck due to sleeping in a strange position or a car accident, you’re probably dealing with acute neck pain. This pain is considered chronic only when the individual has been suffering for more than 6 months. Sources of chronic neck pain can include degenerative disc disease, a pinched nerve, meningitis, and untreated acute pain. Chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia may also cause neck pain as part of their overall cache of symptoms.
Other common causes of neck pain include:
- Myofascial aches – An individual’s muscles may begin to ache when subjected to long-term discomfort such as sitting at a computer in an unstable way or driving long hours.
- Spinal instability – Some individuals may experience too much movement between their vertebra, leading to neck pain, tingling, and arm pain.
- Ligament tears – Ligament and tendon tears can occur in any number of ways, including weight lifting, whiplash, or any sudden movement that stretches the ligaments beyond their capacity.
- Radiculopathy – Herniated or slipped disks can lead to a pinched nerve in the spinal column. This commonly leads to numbness and pain in the neck and arms.
- RSI – Repetitive stress injuries are often found in people who do the same tasks for hours a day. They used to be found most commonly in factory line workers, but today’s digital society has seen desk workers and frequent computer users fall victim to RSI.
Treatments for Neck Pain
The proper treatment for neck pain will depend on both the type of pain you’re experiencing and the proper diagnosis of said pain. Chronic neck pain should always be evaluated by a specialist as some serious underlying conditions should not be left untreated.
When it comes to acute, short-term neck pain, the best home treatment involves applying regular intervals of heat or ice. It is also important to find a balance between resting and staying active. Over the counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen, aspirin, and acetaminophen may be used to reduce swelling and discomfort. If the pain is particularly strong or accompanied by muscle spasms, a doctor may prescribe stronger pain medication.
Massage and spinal manipulation can help in some instances of neck pain, but it is extremely important to seek out a reputable professional before submitting to any kind of manual therapy. Electrical stimulation and ultrasound treatment techniques may also be used by some specialists. Epidural injections or facet joint injections may also be indicated in some cases of neck pain. Trigger point injections under ultrasound guidance may also be recommended.
In rare instances, surgery may be required for advanced chronic neck pain. When a neck injury involves broken bones or spinal instability, surgery may be an option that can re-stabilize the vertebrae or prevent a fracture from leading to more serious problems like paralysis.
Neck pain can reduce your quality of life, but the causes are rarely chronic and even less frequently serious. Home treatments such as adjusting your posture, avoiding repetitive stresses to your body, and applying ice or heat to the injured area can solve most minor acute instances of neck pain. More serious instances may require prescription medication, professional therapy, and changes in lifestyle.