Neck pain is discomfort in or around the cervical spine, which runs beneath your head. Your neck’s bones, muscles, and ligaments support your head and help in its movement. Any abnormalities, inflammation, or injury can lead to stiffness or neck pain.
There are different types of neck pain. You could be suffering from axial neck pain in which the pain is felt primarily in the neck, or you could be experiencing radicular neck pain (pain shoots into other areas such as the shoulders or arms). It could be acute (lasting a few days to a few weeks) or chronic (lasting longer than a few months to years).
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There are several possible causes of neck pain, including:
Soreness in the neck can be caused by straining the muscle. It usually occurs as a result of:
- Poor posture
- Working at a desk for a more extended period without shifting position
- Sleeping with your neck in a bad position
- Jerking your neck during exercise
This condition refers to when the disks between the neck’s vertebrae wear down. This increases friction between the vertebrae leading to neck pain. This degenerative condition can get worse with age leading to more severe pain that may also radiate to the shoulder and down one or both arms.
The neck is particularly prone to injury, especially when the muscles and ligaments of the neck are forced to move outside of their normal range, as they do in falls, vehicle accidents, and sports.
The spinal cord may also be damaged if any bone in the neck (cervical vertebrae) is fractured. A neck injury that is caused by sudden jerking is called whiplash.
It is one of the most common causes of chronic neck pain. This condition develops when the cartilage in a cervical facet joint has worn down sufficiently.
Cervical herniated disc
When an intervertebral disc’s protective layer (annulus fibrosus) is partially or entirely torn, some of the jelly-like inner layer (nucleus pulposus) may leak and cause inflammation and pain.
Infection and diseases
If any part of the cervical spine becomes infected, it can cause inflammation, leading to neck pain. One example is meningitis.
Certain diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis or cancer, can cause neck pain.
Tightening of the neck muscles due to tension or anxiety can also cause neck pain and stiffness.
Conditions that affect spinal balance
Poor posture, being overweight, and weak abdominal muscles can all affect spine posture and contribute to neck pain.
In rare cases, masses including tumors, cysts, and bone spurs can result in severe neck pain.
Remedies for neck pain
If neck pain is not debilitating and is not caused by an injury, the pain can typically be treated with some simple home remedies.
- Use good posture while you are standing or sitting. It’s also important to adjust your desk, chair and computer so that the monitor is at eye level.
- Applying an ice pack can help reduce inflammation and pain, whereas heat therapy can help relax muscles and bring more blood flow to the injured area.
- Gentle stretches can provide relief from neck pain or muscle stiffness.
- Taking over-the-counter medicines for pain relief and inflammation, such as ibuprofen or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can be helpful.
- Massage therapy can soothe muscle stiffness and spasms, reducing pain and promoting relaxation.
- Manual manipulation is another solution. A chiropractor, osteopath, or orthopedic surgeon may use the hands to fix the spine for improved range of motion and pain reduction.
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). Electrodes are placed on your skin near the painful areas. They deliver tiny electrical impulses that can help in relieving pain.
- Short-term immobilization. A soft collar supporting your neck may help relieve pain by taking pressure off the structures in your neck.
If the neck pain persists or worsens despite these remedies, you should consult your doctor for proper medical treatment, such as a steroid injection.
Some conditions that cause neck pain may benefit from physical therapy. A physical therapist can teach you exercises that can aid in strengthening your neck muscles and help you correct your posture.