Neck Pain Causes and Treatment

What is Neck Pain?

Neck pain is a debilitating condition – it affects your physical and mental health, your everyday routine, your social life. It’s common enough to be understood instantly but unique to your life.

Neck pain used to be synonymous with old age – but in this day and age of sedentary work and increased computer usage, an increasing number of young people are complaining of neck pain. For example, as per a recent study, ​24%​ of all IT professionals complain of neck pain.

Understanding Neck Pain

Neck pain often manifests as and can be seen as:

  • Stiffness in the neck
  • A sharp, shooting pain that may radiate down one or both arms
  • Soreness in the neck
  • Headaches
  • Trouble grasping/lifting things

Types of Neck Pain and causes

The most common causes of neck pain are:

  1. Acute pain
    1. Muscle spasm/strain: Due to poor posture while working on the computer, sleeping with the wrong type of pillow or working out incorrectly; muscle strain is the most common cause of neck pain.
  • Chronic pain:
    • Osteoarthritis: Our bones are protected by a protective cushioning known as cartilage. Over time, due to wear and tear, this cartilage degrades down, leading to local inflammation and pain. Cervical osteoarthritis occurs when there is significant friction in the joints, that leads to neck pain. In addition, there may be growth of bone spurs, which can compress nerves leading to chronic pain and headaches.
    • Herniated disc: Commonly known as a “slipped disc”, it is the leaking of the rubbery, viscous fluid from between two vertebrae. This bulge or prolapse can lead to nerve compression, resulting in tingling numbness, pain and stiffness in the neck and shoulders.
    • Disc degenerative disease: When one or more discs are breaking down due to wear and tear, it is termed as disc degenerative disease. It leads to tingling numbness, shooting pain and stiffness.

Progression of Neck Pain

The below mentioned clues could be useful in getting an indication of the cause of Neck Pain:

  • If neck pain is constant and happens day & night -it could be suggestive of malignancy, especially if also associated with unexplained weight loss. This requires immediate further assessment and medical intervention
  • Rapid Neck pain with fever and restriction of movement may be indicative of infection
  • Pain which is gradual and increased with inactivity is suggestive of inflammation

Treatment of Neck Pain

After getting your neck pain diagnosed by a doctor, these may be some of the treatment options that may be used:

  1. Medicines : NSAID’s, muscle relaxants and painkillers are often commonly prescribed by doctors for neck pain to help release the muscle spasm and relax the neck stiffness;
  2. Physiotherapy : Using hot and cold packsand neck strengthening exercises are the mainstay of physiotherapy treatments. The aim of physiotherapy is to correct spinal alignment, posture and strengthen your body. Some physiotherapists may suggest immobilisation,for certain periods, such as a neck brace.
  3. Surgery: In case conventional therapy (medicines plus physiotherapy) fails or there is nerve involvement, your doctor may suggest surgery to help alleviate the symptoms.

What do I do if I have neck pain?

If you’ve had neck pain for a significant while or it’s hampering your daily life and affecting your physical and mental health, you should consult your doctor and get yourself examined.

There are ways you alter your lifestyle to make sure you’re protecting your neck:

  1. Using a cervical pillow during sleep

Cervical pillows help maintain the correct curvature of your spine so as to avoid neck spasms, neck tightness, headaches, disc bulges and other misalignment issues.

In addition to the ergonomic design, these pillows adapt to the unique shape of your head neck and shoulders for custom support and comfort. Due to the design choices, you could be a side sleeper or a back sleeper, this pillow would give you the same level of support and comfort, protecting your neck as you sleep.

It is ideal for those who are unable to maintain a good posture throughout the day due to work, those who often get neck pains and headaches as well as even those who would like to proactively take care of their cervical spine.

  • Using an ergonomic chair and movable monitors for work/study

Proper posture is key to avoiding neck pain. Using ergonomic chairs have shown to help maintain a good posture without causing undue stress to your neck.

Similarly, monitors attached to movable arms are recommended for those working/studying for long hours. From being able to stand up and work to being placed at the eye level, the ability to reposition the monitor reduces the tension in your neck muscles as your posture and alignment is more apt.

  • Using hot and cold packs and / or heating belts

If your pain is due to a bad sleeping posture or a long day at work, using a microwavable hot and cold pack for 10 – 15 minutes helps reduce the tension in your neck.

Using cold packs/cooling towelfor up to 20 minutes a day helps reduce local inflammation. In addition, can use the hot pack alternatively with a cold pack/cooling towel.

  • Neck exercises

Doing light stretches when you wake up and throughout the day helps build your muscles and relieve the stress. In addition, using massage rollersduring mini-breaks during the day is a great way to give yourself the self-care you deserve.

Your neck is extremely important and so it is imperative that, for your health and , good care is taken of your neck by giving it the right kind of rest and support.

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