Neck pain, most of the time, is mild in severity and is often caused by poor posture, injury or strain to the muscles of the neck. The neck is made up of bones, cartilage, muscles and ligaments, any abnormalities to these structures can present as neck pain.
In most cases, neck pain resolves after a few days. If the symptoms persist for over a week, it is important to seek medical attention.
The possible causes of neck pain include:
Neck pain can be caused by straining the muscles of the neck. Poor posture, sleeping on your abdomen or with too many or too few pillows, cradling your phone between your shoulder and neck place a lot of tension on the neck and can present with neck pain.
Activities and behaviors such as carrying a heavy backpack on one shoulder, working at a desk for too long without changing position, sleeping with your neck in a bad position and jerking your neck during exercise can cause neck pain.
The neck is a region of the body that is very susceptible to injury. Common causes of injury to the neck include falls, contact sports, motor accidents, and weightlifting.
Whiplash injuries occur due to the forceful, rapid back-and-forth movement of the neck. They occur commonly with motor accidents.
Meningitis is the inflammation of the meninges (the membranous covering of the brain and spinal cord). Symptoms of meningitis include neck stiffness, fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light.
Meningitis can be life-threatening and immediate medical attention is needed.
The intervertebral disk between the cervical bones can undergo degeneration increasing the friction between the bones of the neck. This occurs with increasing age.
This degenerative process could worsen, resulting in a herniated portion of the cervical disk. This can entirely compress nerve tissue, resulting in severe neck pain that may spread down to the shoulders.
Tension headaches are the most common types of headaches described as feeling like a tight band around your head. Symptoms include dull, aching head pain, the sensation of tightness or pressure across your forehead or on the sides and back of your head, and tenderness on your scalp, neck, and shoulder muscles.
When To See The Doctor
Neck pain usually goes away after a few days. It is important to get medical help if the symptoms persist for more than a week. Also see the doctor if neck pain is associated with the following symptoms:
- neck swelling
- pain that radiates down your arms or legs
- inability to move your arms or hands
- inability to touch your chin to your chest
Treatment is based on the cause of the pain. Muscle tension or strain causes neck pain that normally goes away on its own in a few days and requires only conservative therapy.
A few investigations such as blood tests, lumbar puncture, x-ray, CT scan and MRI may also be done to pin point the exact cause.
Treatment for neck pain include:
- physical therapy and exercise
- ice and heat therapy
- pain relievers
- chiropractic therapy
- Exercise regularly
- Adopt and maintain a good posture
- Avoid carrying heavy backpacks
- Wear a seatbelt
- Put on appropriate protective gear when participating in sports or exercising