Six things causing a pain in your neck
No one wants to be known as a pain in the neck. Even worse, however, is dealing with actual, chronic neck pain.
According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 15 percent of adults suffer from neck pain during any three-month period. That ranks it third behind lower back pain (28 percent) and migraines (16 percent) among painful conditions experienced by adults in the U.S.
Although waking up with a stiff neck might not seem to be a significant problem, neck pain can be a symptom of more serious medical issues, and the pain can be severe and debilitating. People who have chronic neck pain should consult a medical professional who deals with pain management and diagnosis.
Most neck pain results from a strain (an overstretched or overused muscle), a sprain (injury to a ligament) or a spasm of the neck muscles. Arthritic changes in the neck also commonly cause pain as we get older. On occasion, the causes can be more serious.
Here are some of the issues and conditions that can cause neck pain:
Sleeping on it
Stiff, painful neck soreness can result from a pillow that is too flat or too full or from sleeping in a position that leaves your neck kinked or bent uncomfortably. Your pillow plays an important role in supporting the intricate structures of the head, neck, shoulders, hips and spine. When used correctly, pillows help in alleviating or preventing many common forms of back and neck pain, as well as shoulder, hip and other forms of joint pain.
The type of job you have can play a role in neck pain. Just as work-related overuse can cause carpal tunnel syndrome in your hand and wrist, some occupations promote overuse of neck muscles. Tasks like painting a ceiling or doing other overhead work can strain your neck. So can poor posture like slouching when looking at a computer monitor or constantly bending over to view or text on a smartphone.
Stress and anxiety can cause and/or exacerbate neck pain. People under stress tend to raise their shoulders, which causes the neck and shoulder muscles to become shortened and tight. The muscles become strained particularly at the tendons where they join the area of bone at the back of the skull. The associated discomfort, the aching shoulders and a sore neck, will be familiar to most of us.
A variety of injuries can be sources of neck pain. Whiplash from an accident, damage from falls, blows to the head or sports-related injuries can all produce significant neck pain. Herniated discs and pinched nerves are chronic conditions that can result from neck injuries.
Serious medical conditions
Many diseases and medical issues can cause or contribute to neck pain. Some of these are arthritis, meningitis, degenerative disc diseases, tuberculosis of the neck, infection of the bones in the neck and more. Neck pain can also come from conditions affecting neck muscles, such as fibromyalgia and polymyalgia rheumatica.
A painful neck can also result from ordinary illness like a cold, sore throat or the flu. Infections can swell lymph nodes in the neck, causing them to be painful and sore.
Fortunately, there are many treatment options for patients suffering from neck pain. Simple remedies can include massage, heat packs, muscle relaxants and pain medications. More serious and chronic pain treatments can include injections of steroids or pain blockers.
Radiofrequency ablation is a longer-term solution where heat is applied to a nerve to block pain sensations for up to 12 months. Another, less frequent, treatment is to implant wires that provide electrical stimulation to the painful area.
The exact treatment a patient receives depends on the condition and individual needs, reactions and responses. If you suffer from neck pain, you should seek an experienced pain care provider to create a custom treatment plan for your specific situation.
Dr. Alex Bigham is the owner and CEO of Novocur Pain Management Clinics and has over 18 years of healthcare experience in private practice and Ambulatory Surgical Center settings. Novocur offers advanced treatment options in a concierge type practice without the concierge price tag. Dr. Bigham appears frequently on local TV and radio programs to discuss the latest in Pain Management or related health topics.
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