Neck and back pain can have a debilitating effect on someone’s life. No one likes to experience pain however when it occurs the main goal is to make it stop as soon as possible. According to the National Institute of Health Sciences (NIHS) neck pain is the 3rd most common type of pain experienced in the US today. Almost 2/3 of the population will experience some form of neck pain in their lifetime.
Neck pain has several causes and can appear out of the blue. Our neck is an intricate part of the body because it holds up the head as well as protects the spinal column at the most important juncture where it connects to our brain. Because of its positioning the pain that we experience in our neck can be caused from not only the neck itself but the surrounding anatomy as well.
The muscles of the neck connect from the upper back, shoulders, chest and into the face. These muscles help with movement in all directions of the head and posture support. If any of these muscles becomes strained it can cause neck pain. Whiplash is an injury that causes muscle strains and can occur from sports, motor vehicle accidents and falls. Herniated or bulging intervertebral discs are serious trauma to the neck, which can cause acute and severe neck pain. Misalignments in the cervical vertebrae or a pinched nerve can cause neck pain. Disease such as osteoarthritis and degenerative disc disease both affect the severity of neck pain. Bad posture either while standing, sitting or sleeping are very common causes of neck pain. Neck pain can range from a dull ache to an acute pain where you are unable to move your neck.
Neck pain can be avoided and relieved. Improper posture or support can easily cause the neck to start hurting. Therefore avoid sitting or standing in the same position for too long. Avoid awkward head positions especially if the head is turned or tilted. Always use proper posture, which keeps the curve in your neck and proper alignment of your spine. When sleeping make sure you are using proper support and pillows. Sleeping on the wrong pillow can overtime cause neck pain, decreased range of motion in the neck and muscle spasms. A pillow that is too high or too low will cause misalignments of the spine.
Depending upon the cause of your neck pain will determine the best course of treatment for your neck. Initial at home treatment includes rest, heat or ice, over the counter pain medications, topical pain creams, stretching, or a neck pillow. However, in cases where a doctor is consulted additional treatment maybe recommended. In trauma situations a neck collar will stabilize the neck to take the pressure off of the muscles. Physical therapy such as ultrasound, heat pads, exercises, manipulation, and massage can reduce inflammation and swelling where as a chiropractic physician can realign the spine and relieve pinched nerves. A general physician or orthopedic doctor can prescribe cortisone injections, muscle relaxers, and local anesthetics. Even alternative therapies such as acupuncture and yoga have shown to reduce neck pain.
The one thing you should avoid when neck pain occurs is not doing anything about it. By dismissing neck pain or thinking it will go away on its own, the pain can actually become worse, especially in circumstances of injury or trauma. Neck pain can gradually appear or come on suddenly, so supporting proper posture and strengthening your neck will help to minimize neck pain appearance.