The neck and back are made of small bones called vertebrae. The neck holds up the weight of the head and protects nerves that carry the motor and sensory information from the brain to the rest of the body. Pain in the neck is a common complaint; anything from sleeping wrong to a bad posture can cause neck pain. Pain in the neck and shoulder may vary in intensity, and you may feel pain from the neck to your arms.
WHAT CAUSES NECK PAIN?
As your neck is flexible and supports the weight of your head, it can be vulnerable to injuries and conditions that cause pain and restricts motion. Neck pain can be caused due to a variety of reasons:
Muscle Tension and Strain– working over a computer or using smartphones for long hours, poor posture, jerk in the neck during exercising can strain neck muscles.
Injury– Neck injury could be due to falls, accidents, sports, etc.
Worn Joints– Just like other joints in the body, neck joints tend to wear out with age. Conditions like osteoarthritis cause the cushions (cartilage) of the bones to deteriorate. The body then forms bone spurs that affect joint motion and cause pain.
Nerve compression– Herniated disks or bone spurs in the vertebrae of your neck can press on the nerves branching out from the spinal cord.
Diseases– certain health conditions like Osteoporosis, Rheumatoid arthritis, Meningitis, Fibromyalgia can cause neck pain.
Why should I take up neck pain seriously?
Because it may cause severe problems if ignored. Meet the doctor immediately if the neck pain gets severe, doesn’t respond to the treatment, or includes muscle spasm/tightness, numbness, weakness, or tingling and pain in the arms and legs, is unable to move the head, or have a headache.
Diagnosis of Neck pain
Physical examination – to check for tenderness, numbness and muscle weakness, and range of movements
MRI scans use a strong magnetic field to create detailed images of bones and soft tissues including the spinal cord
X-rays can reveal areas of your neck where bone spurs or other degenerative changes might pinch the nerves or spinal cord
CT scans combine images taken from many different directions to produce a detailed view of the internal structures of the neck
Electromyography is performed to determine if some specific nerves are conducting an impulse properly
Prevention of Neck Pain
Most neck pains are associated with poor posture and age-related wear and tear. Simple, self-help treatments are often enough to manage neck pain. Also, certain tips that affect daily activities can prevent neck pain. Therefore, make sure you:
Maintain a good posture when you stand or sit
Take frequent breaks if you’re traveling long distances or if you have long working hours
Adjust your desk, chair, and computer so that your monitor is at eye level
Sleep in a good position so that your head and neck is aligned with your body
Avoid carrying heavy bags with straps on your shoulders
Quit smoking as it can put you at risk of developing neck pain.
Avoid tucking the phone between your neck and shoulder while you talk. If you are on call for a longer duration, use headsets or speakerphones instead.
Treatment of Neck Pain
Mild to moderate neck pain can be managed by following the simple tips mentioned above. But if the symptoms persist, you might require the following treatment options.
Physical therapy- a physical therapist may use heat, ice, electrical stimulation, and other measures to relieve the pain. A physical therapist also teaches you correct posture and neck-strengthening exercises.
Traction– performed under supervision, traction uses weights to stretch your neck gently.
Short-term immobilization– A soft collar that supports your neck may help relieve pain by taking the pressure off your neck.
Steroidal injections– these medications are injected near the nerve roots or into the muscles in your neck to help with the pain.
Surgery– this is rarely needed for neck pain, might be an option for relieving nerve root or spinal cord compression.
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