Neck pain isn’t as uncommon as you think it is. With work from home becoming more common and people staying glued to phones and laptops more than ever before, our necks are being strained every day. Many people face this problem and avoid going to a neck pain doctor as they’re not aware of its long term effects. To keep your spine and neck healthy, it’s important to learn about the causes and treatment for neck pain.
What is Neck Pain?
Common neck pain may occur from muscle strain or tension from everyday activities including poor posture, prolonged use of a computer and sleeping in an uncomfortable position.
Understanding Your Cervical Anatomy
Understanding how our body is made helps us realise how to keep it healthy. The neck bears the entire weight of the head, and it still allows a significant amount of movement. The first 7 vertebral bones of the spinal column form the cervical spine in the neck region. These bones are less protected than other parts of the spine. These factors make the neck more susceptible to injury or other painful disorders. To learn more about this you can consult your neck pain doctor.
Causes of Neck Pain
The most common cause of neck pain is when soft tissues in our body (muscles, ligaments or nerves) get injured due to prolonged wear and tear. Traumatic accidents or falls and contact sports like football, hockey and wrestling, can cause severe neck injuries and pain. Neck pain can also occur from infections, tumours or congenital abnormalities of the vertebrae.
Rheumatoid arthritis: It is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks healthy joints, tissues, and organs. The condition occurs most often in the upper neck area, causing inflammation of the lining (or synovium) of joints, and resulting in neck pain, stiffness, swelling, and loss of function. A neck pain doctor will examine the area and refer you to a physical therapist who can teach you exercises to keep your joints flexible.
- Cervical disc herniation: Cervical disc herniation refers to the abnormal protrusion of the discs in the cervical spine region or neck region. It’s like a bulging or rupture of the soft fibrous disc that cushions the vertebrae. The soft central portion called nucleus pulposus bulges out through the tear in the capsule. The condition can be caused by normal ageing or by traumatic injury to the spine and often results in pain, burning, tingling or numbing sensations in the neck.
- Cervical spondylosis: Cervical spondylosis refers to the abnormal degeneration of the cartilage and bones in the neck region. The condition results in neck pain radiating to the arms or shoulder and neck stiffness that gets worse over time.
- Cervical stenosis: Cervical stenosis refers to the narrowing of the spinal canal that protects the spinal cord and its branching nerves. The condition causes neck pain radiating to your arms and hands.
Degenerative disc disease: Degenerative disc disease refers to the gradual deterioration of the disc between the vertebrae and is caused due to ageing. As people age, intervertebral discs lose their flexibility, elasticity and shock absorbing characteristics, resulting in neck pain.
Diagnosis of Neck Pain
The diagnosis of neck pain is done by a professional neck pain specialist. It is made with a review of your history, physical examination and other imaging techniques including electromyography (EMG), X-ray, MRI scan, CT scan, blood tests, and bone density assessment.
Treatment for Neck Pain
The treatment options for neck pain include rest, ice application, use of a soft neck collar and neck immobilization using a splint, cast or sling. Medications such as anti-inflammatory drugs, analgesics, and muscle relaxants may be prescribed to reduce pain and inflammation. Certain stretching and strengthening exercises may be recommended to strengthen the neck muscles.
Surgical treatment by anterior cervical discectomy with spinal fusion is typically recommended by a neck pain specialist only after non-surgical treatment methods fail to relieve the pain. An anterior cervical discectomy is a surgical procedure performed to remove a herniated or degenerative disc in the cervical (neck) spine. A spinal fusion may be performed to provide stability to the spine.
Prevention of Neck Pain
The following steps may help you prevent or improve your neck pain, however, seeking advice from a neck pain specialist is always best.
- Practice relaxation exercises to prevent undesirable stress and tension in the neck muscles.
- Perform stretching exercises for your neck before and after exercise.
- Maintain good posture if you work at a computer and adjust the monitor to your eye level. Stretch your neck frequently.
- If you use the telephone a lot, use a headset.
- Use a pillow that keeps your neck straight.
- Wear seat belts and use bike helmets to reduce injuries.
When To See A Doctor?
If you’ve tried the above treatments and the pain still doesn’t go away, you will need to see a neck pain doctor. Other symptoms that are a cause for concern are intense pain, redness, swelling and fever.
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