About neck pain
Your neck is a critical connection between your body and your head. Every day, the neck must support and hold your head’s weight. It also acts as a protective thoroughfare for several important structures, like blood vessels, nerves, and your airway.
Neck pain is a common complaint. Any injury to the musculature and support structures – be it from illness or simply poor posture – can result in neck pain or stiffness. However, neck pain isn’t serious for most people and will improve within a few days. Still, neck pain can be a sign of a severe underlying condition. Therefore, it’s important to know the signs and symptoms, as well as how to treat neck pain.
Neck pain symptoms
Most often, the symptoms of neck pain are mild – even if inconvenient. Pain is typically acute, meaning it lasts only a couple of days to a week.
Possible symptoms of neck pain include:
Stiff neck is often felt as a limited range of movement and a feeling of becoming “stiff” or “stuck”.
Sharp pain is described as “sharp” or “stabling” and localized to one area. Often the pain worsens when you hold your head in one place for too long, e.g., working at a computer.
Radiating pain or numbness is where the pain moves into your head, trunk, shoulders, or arms. Such pain is often “burning” in character and associated with numbness. The most common cause is the compression of a nerve.
Headache can occur from chronic pain or a special type of headache called a cervicogenic headache.
When to see a doctor
In most people, as mentioned, symptoms will be mild and temporary. But neck pain can herald a severe underlying condition.
Consult a doctor if your neck pain:
Continues for more than a week
Is accompanied by other symptoms
Radiates down your arms and upper body
Causes of neck pain
Your neck supports an 11lb weight atop it. That’s roughly the same as a bowling ball. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that this flexible and complex body part is susceptible to injury.
Common causes of neck pain include:
Muscle strains occur due to poor posture or bad sleeping habits.
Repetitive motion will tire the muscles and ligaments, causing inflammation.
Arthritis of the joint cartilage between the vertebrae is caused by age-related deterioration.
Nerve compression can occur from herniated disks, bone spurs, and, more rarely, from cancer.
Injuries, for example, whiplash from a rear-end auto collision.
Most neck pain will dissipate in a few days. To relieve minor cases of neck pain, heat and ice packs can reduce any inflammation – as will pain medication, like ibuprofen. Otherwise, perform gradual and gentle neck exercises every day. Consider using a special neck pillow for sleeping. And avoid heavy lifting or sports activities while your neck rests.
When consulting a Chiropractor, they can assist with posture correction which will help prevent chronic neck pain. For acute neck pain, the chiropractor can perform gentle manipulations to the cervical spinal joints which will help reduce stiffness in the neck. They may also help loosen muscle spasms by massaging over the stiff muscle and showing the patient some stretching techniques.
If the Chiropractor suspects something more serious, you’ll be sent for imaging (X-ray, CT scan, and MRI) to determine any underlying condition.