Neck pain is a common health issue that triggers from everyday factors like poor posture or sitting for long hours in a same position. These activities can strain the muscles in the neck. Additionally, neck pain can be linked to osteoarthritis, a common cause of discomfort in this area.
While most neck pain is due to factors like posture, overuse, or awkward sleeping positions, there are instances where it may signal severe problem, such as an injury or an underlying illness. In this blog, we'll explain the symptoms and causes of neck pain and the ways to alleviate it. Keep reading
Neck Pain Symptoms
An understanding of the neck pain symptoms will help you manage the pain better. The common symptoms include:
- Pain and Stiffness: Neck pain can extend to your shoulders and chest, causing arm pain, tension headaches, and difficulty in moving your head.
- Numbness or Tingling: A pinched nerve can result in numbness, tingling, or pins and needles sensations down your arm and into your fingers.
- Clicking and Grating Noises: Sometimes, you may hear or feel clicking or grating sounds when you move your head, known as crepitus; this is typically harmless.
- Dizziness and Blackouts: Feeling dizzy when looking up or turning your head may be due to pinched vertebral arteries; it's essential to seek medical advice if this occurs.
- Muscle Spasms: Sudden muscle stiffness in your neck can cause pain and difficulty turning your head; heat, gentle stretches, and pain relievers can help.
Neck Pain Causes
Now, let us take a look at some common neck pain causes:
- Ageing: Over time, natural wear and tear can lead to degeneration of the cervical spine, resulting in conditions like osteoarthritis and spinal stenosis.
- Mental Stress: Stress-induced muscle tightening causes neck pain, often without individuals realizing they're doing it.
- Injury: Trauma from accidents, sports injuries, or falls can damage ligaments, muscles, disks, and nerve roots in the neck.
- Growths: Masses like tumours, cysts, or bone spurs can apply pressure on neck nerves, causing pain.
- Muscle Tension and Strain: Poor posture, prolonged desk work, awkward sleeping positions, and sudden jerking movements can lead to muscle tension and neck strain.
- Heart Attack: Neck pain, along with symptoms like shortness of breath, sweating, and arm or jaw pain can be a sign of a heart attack.
- Meningitis: Inflammation of the brain and spinal cord's protective tissue can cause a stiff neck, along with other severe symptoms.
- Osteoporosis: Osteoporosis can weaken bones, potentially leading to small fractures, including those in the neck.
- Fibromyalgia: This condition causes widespread muscle pain throughout the body, particularly in the neck and shoulder area.
- Spondylosis: With age, cervical discs can degenerate, resulting in spondylosis or osteoarthritis of the neck. This can narrow the space between vertebrae and add stress to the joints.
- Herniated Cervical Disc: When a disc protrudes due to trauma or injury, it can exert pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots. This is also known as a herniated, ruptured, or slipped disc.
- Spinal Stenosis: Spinal stenosis occurs when the spinal column narrows, causing pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots as they exit the vertebrae. It may result from long-term inflammation due to conditions like arthritis.
Diagnosis of Neck Pain
Your doctor may try to find the exact neck pain reasons through any one or more of the following options:
- Physical Exam
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
- Computed Tomography (CT) Scan
- Electrodiagnostic Tests
- Lab Tests like complete blood count (CBC) and urinalysis.
How to Reduce Neck Pain?
Your doctor will recommend neck pain treatment based on your specific symptoms, which include:
- Pain Medications and Relaxers: Commonly prescribed medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs may help reduce aches and inflammation, while muscle relaxants can aid in the healing of neck muscles.
- Physical Therapy: Working with a therapist or fitness trainer can teach you exercises that strengthen neck muscles and boost flexibility.
- Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) Unit: This apparatus administers a gentle electrical current to the skin near the pain-sensing nerves, effectively interrupting the pain signals. Be sure to seek guidance from your healthcare provider before utilising a TENS unit.
- Steroid Injections: In some cases, a steroid injection is given around the nerve roots to reduce inflammation and pain.
- Additional Therapies: Your provider might suggest alternative treatments such as acupuncture or massage to relax tight muscles. You can visit a chiropractor for spinal alignment.
- Surgery: Surgery is rarely necessary for most neck pain cases. It might be considered only if vertebrae in your spine have shifted or are pressing on nerves.
How to Cure Neck Pain Fast?
If you are struggling with bad neck pain, here is how to relieve neck pain quickly. Just make sure to consult your doctor before you make any major changes to your routine:
- Apply Heat or Ice: Use ice for the first 48-72 hours, then switch to heat. Warm showers, hot compresses, or a heating pad can help. Just avoid falling asleep with them to prevent skin injuries.
- Over-the-counter Pain Relievers: Consider ibuprofen or acetaminophen, as recommended by doctors.
- Keep Moving: Stay active but avoid sudden or painful movements to calm symptoms and reduce inflammation.
- Gentle Massage: Have a partner to gently massage the sore areas, communicating about pressure and comfort. Keep the massage movements directed toward the heart to follow the natural blood flow in your veins.
- Sleep Setup: Ensure you have a suitable mattress and pillow. A firm mattress without a pillow or a special neck pillow can help.
- Soft Neck Collar: Consult your healthcare provider about using a soft neck collar for relief. However, avoid prolonged use, as it can weaken neck muscles.
Neck Pain Exercises
Engaging in gentle, deliberate movements like slow range-of-motion exercises can effectively stretch your neck muscles. This includes moving your head up and down, from side to side, and from ear to ear. Additionally, practising specific stretches, whether at your desk or during a car ride, can help prevent neck stiffness. Here are some easy neck pain exercises to consider:
- Roll your shoulders backwards and downward about 10 times.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together repeatedly, around 10 times.
- Gently push your head backwards, and maintain this position for approximately 30 seconds.
- Perform a controlled motion of bringing one ear toward your shoulder, and repeat this about 10 times on each side.
Neck pain can be a real discomfort, Thanks to the neck pain treatment and many exercises, you can find some relief. However, the unexpected can always happen. Prolonged neck pain can provoke other severe health issues that require immediate medical attention. And no doubt a single trip to the hospital can wipe out your entire savings considering the soaring inflation rates.
That's where the health insurance plans by Care Health Insurance come into play. Having the right health insurance coverage can make a world of difference in accessing timely and effective treatment for neck pain or any other medical condition. Don't wait until you're in pain to realise its importance.
>> Also Read: Cervical Pain: Types, Causes and Treatment
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