Understanding Neck Pain

Neck pain is a common condition that can be caused by poor posture or osteoarthritis. Some common characteristics of a neck pain include a headache, decreased range of motion of the neck and head, pain that worsens after holding you head for an extended period of time, and muscle tightness or spasm. In most cases, neck pain improves over time with home treatment. If the neck pain persists in a severe manner alongside headaches, numbness, tingling, and pain radiation, it is time to see a doctor.

Because the neck is flexible, it is extremely vulnerable to injuries that can restrict motion and cause pain. Some diseases, for example rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, or meningitis, can cause neck pain. Certain injuries such as rear end collisions can cause a whiplash injury. A whiplash can strain the soft tissues of the neck from the jerking motion of the head. Muscle strains of the neck can also cause neck pains. Many times, the overuse and poor posture of the neck can result to this pain. Some examples of muscle strain include being hunched over a desk for a long period of time, reading in bed, and gritting your neck. Nerve compression can also cause the onset of neck pain. Nerve compression is when bone spurs and herniated disks in the vertebrae of the neck press on the nerves around the spinal cord. Alongside nerve compression, worn joints can also cause neck pain. The neck joints of your body can get worn out due to age.

Osteoarthritis can cause the cushioning cartilage between the bones to deteriorate. When this happens, the body creates bone spurs and this can cause pain and decrease joint motion.

When neck pain becomes severe and persistent, it is time to see a doctor. The doctor will need a medical history and check for numbness, tenderness, and muscle weakness.

In addition, he or she will also test how far you can move your head side to side, backwards, and forwards. The doctor may also administer imaging tests such as X-rays, CT scans, and MRI to reveal images of the neck.

Your doctor will take a medical history and do an exam. He or she will check for tenderness, numbness and muscle weakness, as well as see how far you can move your head forward, backward and side to side. An electromyography (EMG) may also be conducted if there is a possibility that the neck pain could be related to a pinched nerve. A blood test can also be administered to test for inflammatory or infectious diseases.

Many mild to moderate neck pain cases get relief from proper self care withing two to three weeks. However, if the neck pain persist, a doctor may prescribe a stronger over the counter drug that can relieve the pain such as tricyclic antidepressants and muscle relaxants. There are also other treatment options that does not involve medications. A person with neck pain can find benefits from physical therapy.

Physical therapy can teach proper posture, alignment, and neck-strengthening exercises. A physical therapist can also use electrical stimulation, ice, and heat to ease the neck pain and prevent a reoccurance of this condition. Another treatment option can be transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). This is when electrodes are placed on the skin of the affected area and electrical impulses would be administered to relieve pain. Traction that uses air bladder, pulleys, or weights to scratch the neck may relieve neck pain that is related to nerve root irritation. Short term immobilization provides support for the neck and takes pressure off the neck. Other extreme treatments for neck pain include steroid injections and surgery.

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