Neck pain is certainly a common complaint. If you’re experiencing soreness, stiffness, and tightness in your neck region, these could be symptoms of a mild neck injury.
Since many individuals who experience neck pain work in an office setting that involves copious amounts of sitting, it’s likely that the root cause of neck pain for many is poor posture and sedentary lifestyles.
Yet, neck pain can also be caused by other factors. For example, some individuals live the exact opposite of a sedentary lifestyle and suffer neck pain due to overuse. Neck pain can also be a symptom due to other problems, such as osteoarthritis or history of a traumatic spinal injury.
The good news is that most cases of neck pain are temporary and get better within a few short days. Yet, some instances of neck pain can be more severe and do not improve quickly. In this case, you should consult with a physician immediately.
The neck has the unique job of carrying the load of your heavy head all day.
In fact, the head can weigh over 10 pounds!
It’s imperative, then, to do all that you can to remain proactive in utilizing methods to prevent neck pain. It’s essential to do this to protect your neck and ensure no additional damage is done to the rest of your musculoskeletal system.
The following will discuss the several causes of neck pain and how one can begin to treat it. Additionally, we’ll discuss the most practical and effective preventative measures one can take to ensure a healthy, pain-free neck.
Causes of Neck Pain
The neck is a region of the upper torso that is made up of vertebral bones connecting to the skull. The unique makeup of the neck, inclusive of its bones, muscles, and ligaments, allows a fluid range of motion in a supportive fashion.
As you can imagine, the neck is a vulnerable and delicate region of the body. If put in a compromised position for an extended period of time, one can experience days of stiffness and soreness. Luckily, in the majority of cases, neck pain subsides on its own. However, continued neck pain without improvement is a reason to seek medical attention.
These are some of the most common causes of neck pain:
• Poor posture (sitting, standing, or sleeping)
• Trauma (car collision, fall)
• Sports Injury
• Physiological abnormalities
• Tumors and Infections
• Repetitive Neck Motion
Neck pain can happen to anyone; however, common risk factors increase the chances of experiencing acute, subacute, or chronic neck pain.
If you’re someone who lives a sedentary lifestyle, lacks physical upper body torso strength and mobility, has experienced previous neck pain or injury, or lives with constant feelings of stress and angst, you may be at greater risk.
Suppose you’ve knowingly been in a traumatic event such as an accident or hard collision of sorts. In that case, it’s best to seek medical attention immediately, as the pain you’re experiencing may lead to more significant issues if not treated.
If you’re experiencing slight headaches, stiffness, or general soreness of the neck, the symptoms may improve with time and at-home care.
In all cases, if you’re concerned for any reason, a consultation with your doctor is always wise.
How to Treat Neck Pain
The severity and persistence of your neck pain will determine the path of treatment that you take. For those confident that they’re only experiencing mild symptoms of neck pain, at-home remedies may suffice.
The following are some of the most effective self-care treatments for mild neck pain:
• Contrast therapy (apply heat and ice in rotation for several days, multiple times per day)
• Practice good posture
• Take over-the-counter pain-killers & anti-inflammatories (ibuprofen and acetaminophen)
• Stretch and implement careful mobility exercises
A doctor visit is highly recommended for those who have experienced persistent pain that doesn’t seem to go away or is getting worse. These cases may need more advanced evaluation and treatment.
Through careful analysis and examination of your condition via x-rays, possible blood tests, CT scans, and other testing modalities, a doctor will be better equipped to determine the best treatment plan.
Here are some of the most common doctor-prescribed treatments for chronic neck pain:
• Pain medication
• Steroidal injection
• Muscle relaxants
• Neck brace
• Surgery if necessary
• Antibiotics (for infection)
• Physical therapy
As always, the best treatment is prevention. Outside of uncontrollable life circumstances like degenerative diseases and accidental traumatic events, neck pain can often be prevented in the majority of cases.
How to Prevent Neck Pain
The substantial majority of neck pain cases are preventable and within your control to avoid. The first preventative measure, and arguably most effective, is a simple adjustment to your posture. Because many of us sit slumped over at a desk for most of our day, it’s imperative to counteract that with good posture.
In addition, neck pain can be prevented by improving your sleeping position. Other than changing the way in which you sleep, simply implementing an extra pillow, or even a different pillow, can drastically improve neck health.
Lastly, if you don’t exercise, start! Strengthening your muscles, joints, and bones promotes longevity and aids in mobility, flexibility, and the overall strength of the neck and body. Even better, it improves mental health, reduces stress, and thus results in a better state of being.
While neck pain can be a serious condition in some cases, the majority of cases are mild and preventable. If you’re experiencing minor stiffness and soreness, symptoms will likely subside after a few days of rest.
If symptoms worsen, as always, seek medical attention in a timely manner.