The human neck is part of the cervical spine, which is made up of seven bones and separated by intervertebral discs. The cervical spine is attached to the rest of your spinal cord, which extends through most of your body. When the back or spine is injured, it can affect the cervical spine as well. However, tension, stress, bad posture, and other lighter symptoms can also affect your neck’s wellbeing. The trick is to begin listening to your body to figure out when you should take action and when the pain will loosen up on its own.
Common Causes of Neck Pain
There are many common causes of neck pain, such as bad posture, staying too long in one position, lifting something in the wrong way, muscle strains, stress from work or life, working out too much, and more. The typical neck pains generally die down or go away within a few days. However, pain can sometimes stop you from doing regular activities. If you feel that you have a common cause of neck pain and determine that going to the doctor isn’t needed, that is your decision but always err on the side of caution. Taking care of your body is essential, and listening to what your body is telling you is vital when taking care of yourself.
What To Do
Again, it is essential to note that neck pain is not something to be trifled with, and should it last longer than a few days, contact a medical professional? While you wait for your pain to diminish or lessen, you can try a few things such as ice/heat therapy, stretching or gentle yoga, pain relief medicine like Advil, Tylenol, or another over-the-counter reliever.
Make sure to take breaks and to sleep in a position that doesn’t affect your neck pain. Sleeping with a good pillow can be vital to helping you.
Other forms of therapy that can be helpful if you have common neck pain is acupuncture, chiropractic, or massage. Make sure to tell these professionals of your affliction, how it happened, and any other relevant information so they can provide you with the best treatment possible.
Other Causes of Neck Pain
There are external causes of neck pain that can happen, and that doesn’t include sleeping in a weird position. Some neck pain can be attributed to back injury, car crash, worn joints, or nerve compressions.
These pains tend to be worse and last for longer than three days. Neck pain that causes you to wince, gives you the inability to work or enjoy hanging out with friends should be treated as severe and taken care of as soon as you can. A doctor may do a few things that will cause you to seek a referral. But not taking care of the issue may cause a lasting problem is not taken care of right away.
What To Do
You will need to see a doctor when the pain is too severe to move, it lasts for more than three days, it causes headaches, it causes numbness in your arms (or legs), you have a hard time breathing, you find a lump in your neck, you have a hard time placing your chin to your chest, or you have some form of bowel dysfunction due to the pain.
When you contact your doctor, they may give you a referral to a physical therapist, neurologist, or chiropractor. These doctors will provide you with a few tests and may follow-up with blood tests, MRIs, CT scans, spinal taps, or electromyography.
Once you get results from the doctor on your condition, your doctor may give you treatments such as ice/heat therapy, physical therapy, stretches or exercises, cortisol injections, neck collar, traction, muscle relaxers, or antibiotics if an infection is found. Hospital treatment or surgery may be necessary in more extreme cases.
Don’t use a neck brace without doctors’ approval. If you use one and it is not needed, you can make your symptoms worsen.
Severe Causes of Neck Pain & What To Do
Injuries, illnesses, infections, tumors, abscesses, cancer, congenital abnormalities, and a heart attack can cause the most severe causes of pain in your neck.
While heart attack neck pain is generally coupled with shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness, it is mentioned here because neck pain is essential to take care of if it lasts longer than a few days. If you are experiencing any other symptoms with your neck pain—even if the pain is bearable—go to the nearest emergency room to make sure you avoid having anything severe happening to you.
Illnesses and diseases are a little less severe but can be hard to maintain. Most diseases like fibromyalgia or chronic arthritis are inflammatory diseases, which will have flare-ups throughout the rest of the person’s life. And, while the flare-ups can be helped with the standard neck pain relief tips, the neck pain will never indeed go away. Medicine and maintenance will help the neck pain along with common neck pain relief methods such as gentle yoga, ice/heat therapy, acupuncture, or massage by a licensed professional, light exercise, and other doctor-recommended treatments.
Note that there may not be a quick fix for neck pain that is married to a disease or illness. Shots and over-the-counter pain relief medicine may not help very well. Find what works best for you and know that not all treatments will work very effectively.
Tumors, abscesses, congenital abnormalities, and cancer, of course, are the worst-case scenarios. These are the situations where surgery and extreme measures may need to be taken by you and your medical professional. If you find a lump in your neck or are feeling any form of numbness in your legs, feet, arms, or hands, seek out a professionals help quickly.
Neck pain comes in many shapes and sizes. While the overall state of neck pain is usually fixable, it is rarely unavoidable. The stress and tension can cause light neck pain, whereas something more serious such as fibromyalgia, will require maintenance. The chances of a turnaround for neck pain are pretty great, even when you are injured as long as you take care of the pain in a proper way and take it easy when you are healing.
Resources — AANS, Healthline, Mayo Clinic