What is Neck Pain?
The neck consists of vertebrae, disks between these vertebrae, muscles and nerves. Neck pain can occur due to discomfort or injuries in any of these neck parts. Stiff neck is when it is difficult to move the neck to any one side or at all.
Neck pain or cervicalgia, as it is sometimes called, can extend to other nearby body parts also. Upper back neck pain, neck shoulder pain, neck and upper arm pain or lower neck pain are quite common conditions as well.
Causes of Neck PainNeck pain can be caused due to increased tension in the muscles or neck injuries. These can occur due to several reasons.
- Bad posture while performing everyday tasks such as reading, working on the computer, working at the desk for long hours, watching television and others.
- Strains during sleep time due to wrong neck position.
- Injuries during exercise, falls or accidents.
- Use of wrong pillow and mattress.
- Problems with the spine such as fractures, ruptures, sprains, infections and cancers.
Symptoms of Neck PainThe neck pain symptoms can be:
- Stiffness in the neck
- Tension and tightness in the neck muscles
- Pain in the middle of the neck or on the sides
- Pain in the shoulders, shoulder blades or upper chest area
- Tingling or numbness in the arm muscles
- Muscle spasms that make neck movement difficult
- Dizziness or blackouts when turning head from one side to another; often a result of some problem in the spine.
- Clicking noises or grating sounds from the neck or spine area
Diagnosis of Neck PainYour doctor may ask you several questions to determine the cause of the pain. Your doctor may first conduct a physical exam of the neck and surrounding area to find sore spots, check for knots or any tenderness in the muscles of the neck, arms and shoulders. Your doctor may also ask you questions about your lifestyle or work activities that may indicate a source of the pain such as playing a sport, incorrect posture or the wrong mattress or pillow.
Your doctor may ask you if you feel stiffness upon waking up or if it gets worse as the day progresses. If your neck pain started after an injury, you doctor may ask you questions about your accident or injury or will order more tests to determine the extent of the injury or to get more information about your neck pain.
Treatment for Neck PainThere are several things you can do to get relief from acute neck pain. There are many different types of neck pain treatments.
In cases of severe neck pain or chronic neck pain or neck pain resulting from serious injuries, it is imperative that you consult a doctor and seek medical help as soon as possible.
Non-invasive Treatments for Neck Pain
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory agents (NSAIDs) like aspirin, ibuprofen and others for pain
- Muscle relaxants
- Physical therapy including massage and neck exercises
- Superficial cooling/heat treatments
Invasive Treatments for Neck Pain
Here are some Home Remedies for Neck Pain
- Heat often helps in relieving muscle pain. To cure neck pain and stiffness, apply heat to the affected area. Use a towel dipped in hot water or a hot water bottle for neck pain relief.
- For easing neck pain symptoms such as inflammation, use ice on the affected area. Use a thin cloth to cover the ice and apply it on your neck for a few minutes at a stretch.
- A light massage with warm oil can do wonders for stiff neck pain. Apply the oil to neck, shoulder, upper arms and lower back area for overall relief from muscle tension and pain.
- Neck pain exercises can be done to cure strained neck. Simply moving the neck muscles to the left and then to the right; turning the neck as far as you can comfortably turn can give relief from severe neck pain. Moving the neck up and down and gentle rotations can be done any time of the day. If you experience neck pain after sleeping, then these exercises can be done for a few minutes upon waking up.
- Yoga for neck pain is useful for all acute and chronic neck pain. Try yoga poses such as cow face arms, fish pose or spinal twists for neck pain relief. Yoga poses that involve the shoulders can also ease neck pain. But make sure to practice yoga under the supervision of a licensed yoga expert.
- Change the pillow or mattress if you often experience stiff neck or neck pain after sleeping. There is no one perfect neck pain pillow. To find the best neck pain pillow for you, try different types of pillows such as pillows for lumbar support or pillows with a depression in the middle and see what works for you. Feather pillows or those with crushed foam are better than hard or firm pillows. Orthopedic pillows and cervical pillows are specially designed for preventing neck pain. But again, it depends on individual needs and preferences. Sleep on a mattress that is firm and always sleep on your back.
- For neck pain relief, you can also try over-the-counter pills like aspirin or ask your doctor to recommend one that you can safely take.
- Take adequate rest when experiencing any sort of neck pain.
- Improve your posture to relieve neck pain symptoms and to avoid neck muscle pain in the future.