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Neck Pain

AAt one time or another most individuals will suffer pain in the neck. Neck pain is a condition commonly experienced by more women than men. The pain can be anything from slight discomfort to a  serious burning sensation.

Neck Pain

Neck Pain

The pain is said to be (a crick in the neck) if the pain is intense and sudden. This acute pain can also be muscular rheumatism or faucet syndrome. When acute pain interferes with the normal neck posture forcing it to turn to one side, it is called torticollis. The pain is termed as chronic neck pain if it continues for over three months.

The pain usually affects neck area and can envelope the shoulder blades, arms and even upwards into the head. This can lead to a single or double sided headache. Weakness around the shoulders and arms may accompany pain at the skull’s base. The fingers and arms may experience a tingling or prickly sensation. Stiffness results in the neck muscles getting sore, tense and difficult to touch.

Pain and tenderness in the vertebrae or neck bones and pain that simply wont ease despite treatment. Together with constant numbness, weak sensation or inexplicable weight loss  are all danger signs associated more severe complications. These symptoms warrant the attention of a general practitioner.

Causes of  Neck Pain

Factors that can trigger neck pain include muscular or mechanical complications.

  • A bulge between the vertebral discs can trap a nerve resulting in pinched nerve herniated disc.
  • An injury or trauma to the muscle spinal vertebra involves injury to blood vessel and paralysis.
  • An accident may include whiplash injury, resulting in an acute or chronic injury.

    Neck Pain

    Neck Pain

  • Napping or lying in an incorrectly aligned position.
  • Extended use of a keyboard on a laptop or computer.
  • Arthritis of the neck can soften the bones causing tiny fractures to the spine.
  • Cervical arthritis or spondylitis.
  • Muscle tension or strain is a common cause of  neck pain.
  • Poor posture while sitting, reading or typing.
  • Twisting and turning in sudden jerk motions while exercising causes stiff  neck pain.
  • Spinal infection leading to abscess, diskitis, or osteomyelitis.
  • Any cancer that affects the spine.
  • Spinal stenosis: Occurs when the spinal canal becomes narrower.
  • Ruptured disc: Fibromyalgia.
  • Unnatural formation of the spinal curvature: Scoliosis.

Prevention of neck pain

Steps that can be followed to prevent or quicken neck pain relief include:

  • Supporting your back and maintaining a good posture, especially when sitting for long hours at a desk.
  • Readjusting your computer screen to eye level. This minimizes the need to look up and down.

    Neck Pain

    Neck Pain

  • Placing a reading holder at eye level when typing or scanning document at the desk.
  • If the dominant task in your job is answering phone calls, then using a headset is recommended.
  • When on the road ensure you use helmets and seat belts.
  • Exercises and stretches should come in handy to curb tension and unwarranted stress around the neck muscles.
  • Stretches should be performed regularly for the neck and upper body. This should be done before exercises, and at regular intervals if you work at a computer desk.
  • Relaxation techniques should be incorporated into exercise regimes with the aid of a physical therapist.
  • How you sleep contributes immensely to  neck pain. Choose a firm mattress to avoid unnecessary movements. Ensure your pillow supports your neck and head comfortably at the right level. Some individuals may require special pillows.
  • When experiencing  neck pain, remain as active as possible. Avoid unnecessary rest, bed rest does not improve the situation. Maintain your regular schedule of activities. Driving should be avoided if turning your head quickly produces a sharp pain.
  • Neck pain hardly ever results from a severe illness and will usually vanish within a week. If the pain persists for longer than a week, then seek medical attention from either a chiropractor or physiotherapist. If you receive a neck collar, try and use it for only a day or two, using a collar for a long duration can weaken your neck muscles.

Care and Treatment of Neck Pain

  • Over-the-counter medication like Tylenol, Advil and ibuprofen can help relieve the  pain.
  • Rest or discontinue your normal activity for some days. This minimizes the inflammation and eases off the symptoms.

    Neck Pain

    Neck Pain

  • Ice and heat treatment is beneficial if applied at the right time. Ice can be applied for the first 72 hours. Heat pads can then be used consequently. Take care not to sleep off while using the heat pads or ice packs.
  • Performing certain neck pain exercises with slow motion ranges that stretch the neck muscles helps. This can vary from side to side up and down, ear to ear etc.
  • A partner can help by massaging the sore or painful areas.
  • It is prudent to cut down on overall activity for about three days. Take care to get back to your regular routine gradually. Activities like heavy lifting or that involve back or neck twists should be avoided for up to 6 weeks. Exercise should be gradually resumed two to three weeks after the onset of pain.
  • A physical therapist should be consulted. Its important to know when to resume stretching, and what kind of exercises to perform to regain mobility and strength.
  • Football, jogging, weightlifting, golf, ballet, leg lifts and sit-ups should be avoided.
  • Acute pain at the lower edge of the skull is likely to ease off even without treatment. Painkillers and manual treatment involving physiotherapy and chiropractic are recommended for short term neck pain problems.
  • For neck pain exceeding three month or long-term pain, physiotherapy, chiropractic and intense muscle training is recommended. Acupuncture can also provide relief for shoulder and chronic neck pain.
  • Neck pain treatment involves a diagnosis to establish the cause of pain. This will usually involve physical examination and detailed questions to determine severity and frequency of your pain. The answers you give also aid the doctor in determining if  exercise, painkillers and  physical therapy will resolve the pain.
  • Neck Pain

    Neck Pain

    Questions will dig into the precise location of pain, history, range of movement possible, and the possibility if lumps or swollen glands. Any symptoms accompanying the pain like fever, numbness, weakness or tingling in the arm and anything that aggravates the condition will also be probed.

  • Other tests that can be administered include X-rays, CT scans, Magnetic Resonance Imaging of the neck and complete blood count (CBC) blood test. These tests will only be done if the doctor suspects a fracture, infection, tumor or a severe nerve disorder. Your medical history may also necessitate such tests.
  • A powerful pain killer or a muscle relaxant may be prescribed for a pinched nerve or muscle spasm. A neck collar may be recommended. If nerve damage is suspected, a neurologist or neurosurgeon will have to be consulted.
  • In case meningitis is suspected due to stiff  neck pain,  the emergency department will run further tests, administer antibiotics and recommend hospitalization.
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