Top 5 Causes of Neck Pain
The neck is important - I think we can all agree on that. It supports the head and allows it to turn and flex in all directions to make best use of sensory organs like the nose, ears, and eyes. But sometimes your neck doesn’t work as well as it used to - has anybody experienced that other than us? Unsurprisingly, neck pain is a major health concern with about 10-20% of people in the United States reporting incidents of neck pain. The good news is that in most cases, neck pain is treatable and there are many different types of treatment available.
Here are some of the most common causes of neck pain and what to do about them.
You have a muscle strain.
Neck muscles can be strained from too much time leaning over your smartphone, computer, or even reading in bed.
These simple postural changes may help:
- Keep your head centered over your spine.
- When sitting and standing, ensure that your ears are directly over your shoulders and your shoulders are in a straight line over your hips.
- When talking on the phone, use a headset or speakerphone instead of tucking it between your ear and shoulder.
- Avoid carrying heavy bags with the over-the-shoulder straps. The weight can strain your neck. Consider using a folding hand truck like the UpCart to reduce the effort needed to move objects over all terrains.
- Sleep in a position where your head and neck are aligned with your body. A recommendation is to sleep flat on your back with a small pillow under your neck and with your legs elevated on pillows.
To treat the strain, rest your neck and keep it still and supported.
For more severe strains involving torn tendons or muscles, surgery may be necessary.
You have a pinched nerve.
Herniated discs or bone spurs in the vertebrae of your neck can compress nerves leaving the spinal cord.
For most people, the pain, numbness, and tingling associated with a pinched nerve usually gets better with rest and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). In more severe cases, physical therapy and possibly even surgery may be necessary to address the cause of the compressed nerve.
Your joints are worn down.
Part of getting older is that over time, the joints in your body naturally wear down. This includes those in your neck. Osteoarthritis can cause the cartilage between your vertebrae to wear down, which leads to the formation of bone spurs that cause pain and affect joint motion in your neck.
Osteoarthritis is irreversible, but symptoms can usually be managed with physical therapy, medications such as NSAIDs, and icing your neck. For more severe cases, cortisone injections or surgery may be recommended.
Whiplash injury from car crashes, sports accidents, or other trauma, can strain the various tissues of the neck.
It’s important to see a doctor immediately if severe neck pain results from this type of injury.
Underlying health conditions such as cancer, meningitis, and rheumatoid arthritis can contribute to neck pain, as well.
According to the Mayo Clinic, most neck pain will gradually improve with at-home treatments. You should see your doctor if your neck pain is severe, persists for several days and is not getting better with at-home treatments, spreads down the arms or legs, or is accompanied by symptoms such as headache, weakness, tingling, or numbness.
Do you struggle with any neck pain? If you have any tips, share them below!