Suffering From Neck Pain?
Neck pain is the second most common complaint among patients second only to lower back pain. Most people will experience neck pain at some point in their lives.
Neck pain can be acute, meaning it lasts a few hours to a few weeks, or it can be chronic. Neck pain that lasts several weeks or longer is considered chronic neck pain. If your neck pain is so severe that you can’t touch your chin to your chest despite a few days of self-care, seek immediate medical attention.
Causes of Neck Pain
There are myriad reasons that pain in the neck can occur, but usually the causes of neck pain are not serious. Sometimes the cause is obvious, a patient has had an accident or injury resulting a physical trauma that causes pain in the neck or cervical region. However, other times you may not be able to pin point a specific incident or don’t understand what happened to actually cause the pain you are experiencing.
Poor posture at work, such as leaning into your computer, and during hobbies, such as hunching over your workbench, are common causes of neck pain. Acute strain may also occur after sleeping in an awkward position.
Symptoms of Neck Pain
You may hear or feel clicking or grating (called “crepitus”) as you move your head. This is caused by roughened bony surfaces moving against each other or by ligaments rubbing against bone.
Neck pain is commonly associated with dull aching. Sometimes pain in the neck is worsened with movement of the neck. Other symptoms associated with some forms of neck pain include numbness, tingling, tenderness, sharp shooting pain, fullness, difficulty swallowing, pulsations, swishing sounds in the head, dizziness or lightheadedness, and gland swelling.
Treatments for Neck Pain
Applying ice massages for 5-10 minutes at a time to a painful area within the first 48 hours of pain onset can help relieve pain as can heat, which relaxes the muscles. Heat should be applied for pains lasting greater than 48 hours.
Rest – lie down from time to time during the day to give your neck a rest from holding up your head. Avoid prolonged rest, since too much inactivity can cause increased stiffness in your neck muscles.
Your doctor may recommend that you work with a physical therapist to learn neck exercises and stretches. A physical therapist can guide you through these exercises and stretches.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) with or without an anti-inflammatory medicine such as ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve) may help relieve your neck pain. It may take several days to settle the pain down. Stronger narcotic-containing medicines are usually not necessary, but your doctor may provide these for the first few days.
If severe neck pain occurs following an injury (motor vehicle accident, diving accident, or fall) medical care should be sought immediately. If there has not been an injury, you should seek medical care when neck pain is continuous and persistent, severe, accompanied by pain that radiates down the arms or legs, or by headaches, numbness, tingling, or weakness.
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