Many people suffer from neck pain since neck muscles can be strained easily. In fact, neck pain is one of the most common reasons people visit their chiropractors. Several factors can strain the muscles in the neck including poor posture. In some cases, neck pain can also be attributed to osteoarthritis.
When to See Your Doctor
Fortunately, neck pain is rarely a symptom of a more serious condition. However, you need to seek neck pain treatment and see your doctor immediately when other symptoms are present like loss of strength, numbness in the hands or arms, and shooting pain down the arm or into the shoulder.
Seeking immediate care is also recommended when the neck pain is the result of an injury from vehicle accident, fall, or diving. As a general rule of thumb, visit your doctor right away if:
- The pain is severe
- Pain persists for several days
- Pain travels down the legs or arms
- Pain is accompanied by numbness, headache, tingling, or weakness
Causes of Neck Pain
The neck is flexible and it supports the weight of the head. However, as such, it can also be very vulnerable to conditions and injuries that can restrict motion and cause pain. Other likely causes of neck pain can include:
Worn joints. Similar to other joints in the body, the neck joints have the tendency to wear down as one ages. Case in point: osteoarthritis will cause the cartilage (cushions) between the vertebrae (bones) to deteriorate. The body will then form bone spurs that can cause pain and affect joint motion.
Muscle strains. Overuse (i.e. spending too many hours hunched on your smartphone or computer) can trigger muscle strain. Even minor things such as gritting your teeth or reading in bed can also cause strain to the neck muscles.
Injuries. When the head is jerked backward and then forward, it causes straining to the neck’s soft tissues. This specific condition is called a whiplash injury and it often occurs as a result of rear-end vehicle collisions.
Nerve compression. Bone spurs or herniated disks in the neck’s vertebrae can press on the nerve branching out from the spinal cord and cause neck pain.
Diseases. Certain conditions like meningitis, cancer, and rheumatoid arthritis can also cause neck pain.
Prevention of Neck Pain
Most cases of neck pain can be attributed to age-related wear and tear and poor posture. To help ensure neck pain is kept at bay, always keep the head centered over the spine. A few routine changes can also go a long way. For instance:
Observe good posture. When sitting or standing, ensure the shoulders are in a straight line over the hips and the ears are directly over the shoulders.
Adjust desks, chairs, and computers accordingly. In line with this, make sure the monitor is always at eye level. The knees should also be slightly lower than the hips. Use the arm rests of the chair when applicable.
Take regular breaks. When travelling long distances or working long hours on your computer, include time to get up, move around, and stretch the shoulders and neck.
Refrain from tucking the phone between the shoulders and ears. When talking on your mobile phone, use the speakerphone or the headset.
Quit smoking. If you smoke, you are at a higher risk of developing neck pain.
Don’t carry heavy bags with straps over the shoulder. This might seem harmless but in reality, the weight can strain your neck.
Observe proper position when sleeping. Ideally, when sleeping, the neck and head should be aligned with the body. You can also sleep on your back with the thighs elevated on pillows.