One of our pain management experts believes that a pain-free neck is like the youth — we do not appreciate it until it is gone. Things like poor body posture, diseases, injuries, wear, and tear can damage the spine. Neck pain is often the result of such spine-related matters and it can make your life extremely challenging while taking a major toll on all the aspects of your life like hobbies, productivity, socializing, family life, and more.
If you are on this page at the moment, the possibilities are you know what the neck pain is. Whether you have experienced a sudden pain in your neck the other day or living with chronic neck pain since the time you sustained an injury, this blog will help you learn more about various aspects of your spine, the causes and types of neck pain, and some common treatment for neck pain options to get much-needed relief from the pain.
What’s The Neck Pain?
Our neck consists of a vertebra that connects the upper torso to the skull. When the body experiences physical shocks, the cervical discs absorb them and prevent damage. Your head movements are supported by the neck (the muscles, ligaments, and bones in the neck to be precise). If any one of these components is injured or abnormal, you experience pain or stiffness in your neck.
Neck pain is not new to many and it mostly occurs due to bad sitting or sleeping postures and overuse. In some cases, it can be the result of whiplash or injuries sustained while playing any sport. Even a simple fall can hurt the muscles or bones in the neck and lead to neck pain. While neck pain can be mild in most cases, it can be a sign of other severe illnesses in rare scenarios. Therefore, it’s always good to have a word with your doctors about your neck pain. In short, mild or severe, do not ignore it – especially when it lasts for more than 2 weeks and is intense.
Neck pain ranks fourth in the list of top causes of disability in people in the world.
By disabilities, we mean some serious issues like lower respiratory infection, cerebrovascular disease, and ischemic heart disease.
What’s worse, it is not always concentrated in the neck. It can spread through all the major parts of your upper body like shoulders, head, chest, and arms. If you have been there, you know how miserable living with such chronic neck pain can be. The neck pain is one of the worst attention seekers and has the power to grab all of your focus on it. Ultimately, you cannot concentrate on your everyday routine. If left untreated, it gets dangerous for your mental health as you cannot do the things you like due to this. Hanging out with friends, performing your favorite activities, spending quality time with family become a distant dream with neck pain and causes increased irritation, frustration, and anger in you. Studies have shown that around 85 percent of chronic pain patients are the victim of depression.
What Are The Causes Of Neck Pain?
Out of all, inflammation, injury, and overuse are the most common causes of neck stiffness or pain. But neck pain is not just limited to these three. It can occur due to several causes and treatment for neck pain significantly dependent on the root cause.
The neck is more prone to injuries and similar damaging factors. This is why it is more protected than any other spinal component. Many things can damage your neck and result in pain. Let us now take a look at each cause one by one.
Your neck is in action throughout the day, and this makes it more susceptible to injuries while you are performing certain activities such as diving, playing sports, driving, weight lifting, etc. Strenuous activities can harm the ligaments or muscles in the neck. Some injuries are so severe that they can break the neck and lead to permanent disability.
A broken neck is extremely painful not only to the neck but also to the surrounding body parts. If not properly cared for, it can damage the spinal cord and lead to more serious medical issues like paralysis and loss of neurological functioning.
Strain in Muscles
Significant strain can damage your neck muscles and lead to soreness in the neck. It can exhibit throbbing or moderate level pain. You may experience intense pain in such cases when you try to move the head. Generally, muscle strain is the result of one or more of the following:
- Sitting at the same place for a very long time
- Unhealthy posture while sitting or sleeping
- Sleeping without any neck support
Neck pain can be the result of neck or head cancers. In the United States, around 4 percent of total cancer cases are of neck and head cancers such as salivary gland cancer, nasopharyngeal cancer, oral cancer, laryngeal cancer, nasal cavity, and paranasal sinus cancer.
Patients suffering from head and neck cancers exhibit one or more of the following symptoms.
- Jaw pain
- Change in voice
- Soreness in mouth
- Sudden loss in weight
- Difficulty in breathing
- High fever
- Growths on neck or head
- Mouth ulcers
In spinal stenosis, the spinal cord gets narrowed and this puts additional pressure on the body’s nerve roots. The narrowing of the cord usually takes place in the lower back of the neck area. Pain in the lower back, upper back, neck, and legs are common in patients with spinal stenosis. Even your everyday activities can worsen the pain in this case. However, if you maintain the right posture, there are higher chances of getting some relief.
This unique health condition is often caused by osteoarthritis. Other health issues such as Paget’s disease, birth defects, and tumors in the spine can also lead to spinal stenosis.
This condition is also known as cervical disc degeneration. It occurs when the discs located between the vertebrae in the neck get damaged. Due to increased friction between adjacent vertebrae, you may experience stiffness or pain in the neck. Wear and tear of these discs happen with time and that’s why this condition is common in older people.
Damaged discs can cause increased pressure of nerve roots and spinal cord and cause even more severe issues like cervical disc fragment. The pain that arises from this condition can be sharp and radiates through other parts of the body like arms and shoulders.
How To Treat The Neck Pain?
When the pain is mild to moderate and isn’t the result of any serious trauma or injury, a few self-care techniques can be used to alleviate it. It includes,
- Gentle stretches
- Ice or heat application
- Lifestyle changes
As long as severe and debilitating neck pain is concerned, here are the most common treatment for neck pain you can consider.
Most neck pain patients are recommended to try over the counter medications such as acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to get some relief. If this does not work, pain doctors can prescribe even stronger medications that may include opioids, muscle relaxants, and high-power NSAIDs. It is important to take the exact dosage as instructed by your doctor and read all the directions carefully before taking such medicines.
Physical therapies are proven techniques to improve the strength and flexibility of the neck. This is why most pain clinics count on them to offer relief to neck pain patients. Such therapy programs vary from patient to patient depending on their individual needs. Patients have to undergo 2 or more sessions every week with a professional therapist initially and later they can practice similar activities at home as well.
Therapeutic Injection Procedures
Pain doctors may recommend cervical spine injections to provide relief from neck pain. It can include one of the following injection methods:
- Trigger point injection
- Radiofrequency ablation (RFA)
- Cervical epidural steroid injection
In this method, thin needles are placed on the particular points on the patient’s body by a professional acupuncturist. These points are determined based on the pain conditions. Needles can be placed in the neck area or other parts of the body to release the stagnant energy and offer relief to the sufferers.
Massages provide relaxation to the patients by soothing spasms and muscle tensions. Patients can try this at home with the help of a willing partner or friend. If there isn’t any source, they can hire a trained professional for the best outcomes.
Mindfulness techniques and meditation boost self-confidence in the patients that gives them a sense of more control over pain. It also reduces the pain by relaxing the mind and body while improving the focus with the help of various distraction methods and breathing exercises.
Professionals can adjust the spine to deliver relief from pain and improve its motion range. Normally, osteopaths, chiropractors, and other pain management experts can perform spinal mobilization and spinal manipulation. Do not undergo this treatment for neck pain if there are any underlying conditions or spinal instability in order to minimize the risks of more serious health conditions such as stroke.
There are several options treatment for neck pain and the effectiveness of each of them depends on your neck pain type, symptoms, and other factors. Even though it is possible to get relief in cases of intense neck pain, pain doctors suggest relying on preventive measures rather than treatments for neck pain. Things like changes in lifestyle and self-care management can prevent chronic pain issues. All you have to do is to follow some basic things like getting plenty of sleep, staying active through the day, maintaining healthy postures, staying away from smoking, etc.