Neck Pain

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Neck pain is a common injury and complaint. Your neck is flexible, and as it supports your head, it can get injured and result in pain and restricted movement.

Any abnormalities, causes by poor posture, poor sleeping position or an impact injury can cause neck pain or stiffness. It is not uncommon for people to experience the occasional neck pain or stiffness. It is often short lived and not considered to be serious, with symptoms typically dissipating after a couple of days.

In some cases, however, neck pain can indicate a more serious injury or illness and you should seek medical care if you have persistent and on-going pain in your neck.


What causes neck pain?

Neck pain is a common ailment caused by several different factors including:

Muscle strains: Overuse, such as too many hours leaving over your computer can cause muscle strains.
Worn joints: Your neck joints tend to wear down with age. Osteoarthritis causes the cushions (cartilage) between your bones (vertebrae) to deteriorate.
Nerve compression: Issues with the disks or vertebrae of your neck can press on the nerves branching out from the spinal cord.
Injuries: Sudden movements and impact can result in a whiplash injury, which occurs when the head is jerked backward and then forward, straining the soft tissues of the neck.
Diseases: Certain diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, meningitis, or cancer, can cause neck pain.
Muscle spasms: these are one of the most common causes of neck pain and can be caused by repeated or extensive movements, stress or anxiety, arthritis, or sleeping with a pillow that is too big or small

Other less common causes of neck pain include pinched nerves, inflamed lymph nodes, bone disorders, tumours, and thyroid inflammation.


What are the symptoms of neck pain?

Neck pain symptoms can range in both severity and duration. In many cases, neck pain will be described as acute, typically lasting for a few days or weeks. Other times, neck pain can become chronic.

The pain your experience in your neck can range from mild, with very little impact on your day-to-day life, to debilitating.

Common symptoms of neck pain include:

• Pain that becomes worse after holding a position for a long time
• Headache
• A decreased ability to move your head
• Muscle tightness and spasms
• Tingling or numbness in your hands


How can neck pain be treated?

Self-care treatments can help to relieve neck pain such as alternate ice and heat therapy, over-the-counter pain relievers and gentle stretching and exercise. Alternative treatments such as massage and acupuncture can also help.

Prescribed treatment for neck pain may include physical therapy, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) where electrodes placed near painful areas are used to relieve pain. Other treatments can be short-term immobilization using a soft collar to support your neck or traction (under the supervision of a health professional) where weights and pulleys are used to gently stretch your neck.

If your neck pain does not improve or worsens, you should seek medical assistance. A doctor may order some tests to help diagnose your condition such as X-rays, CT scans or MRI or a blood test to see if an inflammatory or infectious condition might be causing or contributing to your neck pain.

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