The strain you feel on your neck muscle, causing pain is most probably due to maintaining body postures that put pressure on the neck. It may be leaning over the computer or hunching over your desk.
Sometimes though, neck pain can be a symptom of a more serious problem. Seek medical care if your neck pain is accompanied by numbness or loss of strength in your arms or hands or if you have shooting pain into your shoulder or down your arm.
Signs and symptoms include:
- Pain that’s often worsened by holding your head in one place for long periods, such as when driving or working at a computer
- Muscle tightness and spasms
- Decreased ability to move your head
Causes of Neck Pain
Your neck is flexible and supports the weight of your head, so it can be vulnerable to injuries and conditions that cause pain and restrict motion. Neck pain causes include:
- Muscle strains. Overuse, such as too many hours hunched over your computer or smartphone, often triggers muscle strains. Even minor things, such as reading in bed or gritting your teeth, can strain neck muscles.
- Worn joints. Just like the other joints in your body, your neck joints tend to wear down with age. Osteoarthritis causes the cushions (cartilage) between your bones (vertebrae) to deteriorate. Your body then forms bone spurs that affect joint motion and cause pain.
- Nerve compression. Herniated disks or bone spurs in the vertebrae of your neck can press on the nerves branching out from the spinal cord.
- Injuries. Rear-end auto collisions often result in whiplash injury, which occurs when the head is jerked backward and then forward, straining the soft tissues of the neck.
- Diseases. Certain diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, meningitis or cancer, can cause neck pain. Osteoarthritis also is a common cause of neck pain.
When to see a doctor
Most neck pain improves gradually with home treatment. If not, see your doctor.
Seek immediate care if severe neck pain results from an injury, such as a motor vehicle accident, diving accident or fall.
Contact a doctor if your neck pain:
- Is severe
- Persists for several days without relief
- Spreads down arms or legs
- Is accompanied by headache, numbness, weakness or tingling
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor might ask some of the following questions:
- Where exactly does your pain occur?
- Is the pain dull, sharp or shooting?
- Do you have numbness or weakness?
- Does the pain radiate into your arm?
- Is the pain made worse by straining, coughing or sneezing?
- Do you have other physical problems?
Your doctor will take a medical history and do an exam. He or she will check for tenderness, numbness and muscle weakness, as well as see how far you can move your head forward, backward and side to side.
Your doctor might order imaging tests to get a better picture of the cause of your neck pain. Examples include:
- X-rays. X-rays can reveal areas in your neck where your nerves or spinal cord might be pinched by bone spurs or other degenerative changes.
- CT scan. CT scans combine X-ray images taken from many different directions to produce detailed cross-sectional views of the internal structures of your neck.
- MRI. MRI uses radio waves and a strong magnetic field to create detailed images of bones and soft tissues, including the spinal cord and the nerves coming from the spinal cord.
It’s possible to have X-ray or MRI evidence of structural problems in your neck without having symptoms. Imaging studies are best used as an adjunct to a careful history and physical exam to determine the cause of your pain.
- Electromyography (EMG). If your doctor suspects your neck pain might be related to a pinched nerve, he or she might suggest an EMG. It involves inserting fine needles through your skin into a muscle and performing tests to measure the speed of nerve conduction to determine whether specific nerves are functioning properly.
- Blood tests. Blood tests can sometimes provide evidence of inflammatory or infectious conditions that might be causing or contributing to your neck pain.
Avoiding Neck Pain
In order to keep yourself free from neck pain,
- Maintain a good posture when standing and sitting
- Frequently take breaks especially if you work long hours at your desk. It pays to go for a work and take a stretch.
- Ensure thatthe desk, computer as well as the chair on which you sit is properly positioned in such a way to promote physical fitness.
Whenever you pick a phone call, do not put the phone in-between your ear and shoulder when you talk. The headset or speakerphone is better to use.
- Stay away from smoking cigarette, as it puts you at higher risk of developing neck pain.
- Avoid lifting weights too heavy to bear on your head or shoulder. The weight can strain your neck.
- While Sleeping, in a good position. Your head and neck should be aligned with your body. Use a small pillow under your neck. Try sleeping on your back with your thighs elevated on pillows, which will flatten your spinal muscles.
Physiotherapy for Neck Pain
While most mild to moderate neck pain usually respond well to self-care within a short time, if the pain persists, treatment from a physiotherapist would be required. Surgery is rarely needed for neck pain.
A physical therapist (or physiotherapist) will instruct you on the correct standing / sitting / sleeping posture, alignment and neck-strengthening exercises. Also, the use of heat, ice and electrical stimulation to help ease your pain and prevent a recurrence, can be applied in treatment.
Other techniques in physical therapy include TENS (Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation), Traction, Massage, Short-term immobilization, which involves the use of a soft collar that supports your neck to help relieve pain.
You can connect with Effective Physiotherapy and Fitness Clinic on:
Contact us: 0803 436 5055