How is neck pain defined?
Neck pain is any sort of discomfort that occurs in the structures that comprise the neck, including the muscles, nerves, vertebrae, and discs.
In what way may neck pain affect me?
It depends on what is causing the pain, but common problems include mobility in terms of moving the head side to side or up and down. There may be pain, stiffness, or both may be experienced. Also, those who have neck pain could also be affected by shoulder pain, pains in the facial or head regions, or headaches. If your neck pain is associated with the nerves in your neck, you may experience numbness, tingling, or weakness in your arm, hand, or other regions of your body.
What can cause my neck pain?
Neck pain can be caused by many different situations, conditions, and illnesses. Most neck pain is a result of tension or muscle strain. Many times we will strain our neck muscles by engaging in everyday activities, such as sitting at our desk or watching TV while using poor posture, twisting or turning our neck too quickly when engaged in physical activity, sleeping in a position that puts strain on our neck muscles, or having our computer monitor positioned at a bad angle.
Various types of injuries may result in neck pain, including vertebrae fractures, whiplash, sprains, and herniated discs. Various diseases or medical conditions such as fibromyalgia, cervical arthritis, and osteoporosis may be responsible for pain in this region. Also conditions involving narrowing of the spinal canal, spinal infections, and cancer in the spinal area may cause neck pain.
Are there ways to treat neck pain at home?
Yes, when you first experience neck pain, as long as there is no immediate danger or severe injury, it may be treated at home. First apply ice to the affected area. This should be done for two to three days with each application lasting about 30 minutes. Apply the cold compress about four times a day. This will help reduce any swelling and relieve pain. After that, moist, gentle heat may be applied. A warm compress, shower, or heating pad may be used. Again, apply for about 30 minutes three to four times a day. Never fall asleep while applying either cold or hot agents, as this can result in further injury.
You may also take over-the-counter painkillers such as acetaminophen, naproxen, or ibuprofen. Follow directions carefully for these medications. For some amount of time, you’ll want to stop or reduce physical activity so as to not aggravate the injured or strained area.
Gently stretching the neck muscles by engaging in slow range-of-motion exercises will help. Move your head up and down, side-to-side and ear-to-ear to help loosen the muscles. Make sure you’re not in pain when doing the motion exercises. Gently massaging the affected area will aid in stimulating blood flow and healing.
Sleeping on a firm mattress with proper support from your pillow will help make you comfortable while giving your neck the stability and support that it needs. You may also want to contact your doctor to request a soft neck collar, which may be worn for short periods of time. This will help reduce discomfort. However, leaving the color on too long will weaken your neck muscles.
After a week, you should see improvement. If you do, you may begin to slowly and carefully engage in excise activities again.
When should I see my doctor?
If your condition does not improve after one week, you should see your doctor. Your doctor will carefully examine the area and may order various tests to diagnose the problem. Also, if you have had an accident and believe you may have whiplash, it is important to consult your doctor as soon as possible. The same is true for any type of serious injury to the area.
Other reasons for you to consult a doctor include if you:
- Have numbness, weakness, or tingling in your arm or hand
- Cannot move your arm or hand
- Have a lump in your neck or swollen glands
- Experience pain that is not relieved by normal doses of over-the-counter pain medication
- Along with your neck pain, have difficulty swallowing or breathing
- Have pain that wakes you up when you’re asleep
- Find the pain gets worse when you lie down
- Lose control of bowel movements or your ability to void or control urine
- Find your neck is so stiff that you cannot touch your chin to your chest and you have a fever and headache, as you may have meningitis. (Call 911)
- Have heart attack symptoms, such as shortness of breath, tightening in your chest, nausea, vomiting, pain down your arm or in your jaw, and/or sweating. (Call 911)
What can I do to reduce my changes of suffering from neck pain or injuring my neck?
There are various exercise, behaviors, and practices that you may use to help ensure that your neck stays resilient, strong, and healthy. Stretching exercises that gently work your neck muscles and upper body will help keep the area flexible and relaxation techniques will aid in relieving tension in the area. Utilizing good posture when walking, standing, lying down or sitting; taking breaks every hour to stretch if you are sitting for long periods; and placing your computer screen, reading material, and documents you are writing at a comfortable eye level will help to lessen strain.
Make sure that your bed has a firm mattress and that you have good pillows that provide you with the support that you need. Get a special neck support pillow if you require one. When in a motor vehicle always wear your seatbelt and wear a proper helmet when riding a motorcycle, bicycle, or using a skateboard.
What is whiplash?
Whiplash, which is a common occurrence in auto accidents, happens when a vehicle is rear ended, sending it and the people in the car forward quickly while causing the driver or a passenger’s head to whip back, putting a large amount of strain on the neck. This injury, which can occur even during a small fender bender, is common.
It is a painful injury, as the neck, which is responsible for helping to hold the head up while keeping it mobile, is strained to the point where any movement can be impossible. Often support of the head is severely hampered. The result is the victim cannot function normally. They are unable to engage in most physical activity and even sitting or lying down can be painful.
If you are in an auto accident, whiplash symptoms may not at first be evident. Some people will not exhibit symptoms for days or even weeks after an accident. Whiplash injuries can also occur when you are playing sports, engaged in physical exercise, or experience any sort of physical trauma that involves your body suddenly being brought to a stop.