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4 Common Causes and Treatments for Neck Pain

by Dr Prem Community Writer
working in the office

Neck pain can be debilitating. Whether it’s from a recent accident, recurring injury, or simply tight and sore muscles, neck pain can be inconvenient, to say the least. Not only is the pain itself uncomfortable but it can cause other complications from headaches, to back issues, and sleeplessness.

Here we’ll examine the common causes of neck injuries, how to prevent them, and treatment options.

Pinched Nerves

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The nerves in your body are what signal feelings of pleasure and pain. They run from your brain down your spinal cord. When there is unnecessary or unwanted pressure or compression placed on these nerves, it results in pain. Pinched nerves can be mild or severe and cause long lasting complications, making early diagnosis imperative.

So what causes pressure or compression on your nerves? It can be a variety of things, but most commonly, pinched nerves are a result of a repetitive movement or holding your body in a stationary position for too long. Nerves are protected by surrounding tissue. But in certain areas of your body, there is little tissue around these nerves, making them more susceptible to injury. These areas include:

  • Bones
  • Ligaments
  • Tendons

Neck pain is most commonly caused by a pinched nerve in the spinal area. This causes pain to radiate into the neck, shoulders, and back. Surprisingly, a pinched nerve in your neck can even cause pain in your elbow or hands.

Symptoms of a pinched nerve, aside from the initial pain, include numbness or tingling, feelings of “pins and needles” or weakness of the area. The most common treatment for a pinched nerve is rest. Your doctor will likely suggest you limit any activities that will aggravate the situation. If the pain persists, surgery may be necessary. Surgery related to pinched nerves include the removal of things like scar tissue or bone that may be causing the compression.

Strain

You can easily strain your neck by performing everyday activities, while sleeping, or moving too quickly. Neck strain occurs when fibers in the neck muscle or tendon overextend and tear, also referred to as a pulled muscle.

Some of the most common causes of neck strain include poor posture, holding an awkward position for too long or lifting something heavy. Poor posture can happen both during awake and sleeping hours since it occurs any time the neck is tilted or angled. For example, when you’re sitting at a computer too long or sleeping in an awkward position. This type of neck strain can also occur when looking up or down for an extended period of time.

If you try lifting something that is too heavy, your body will compensate by straining other muscles, including those in your neck. Both neck and back strain can be caused by heavy lifting. If you need to lift an heavy item, it’s important to do so with caution. Bend at the knees instead of folding completely over at the waist. This allows your leg muscles to help in the lifting process, taking pressure off your neck and back.

If you’ve experienced recent neck strain, you probably know that it often works itself out. Over time the disturbed muscles and overstretched tendons relax and inflammation subsides. One thing to keep in mind is that sometimes, the pain from neck strain doesn’t appear right away. It may take hours for the symptoms to occur. But, generally, within a week’s time, your neck will feel back to normal. In the meantime, over the counter pain medication can offer some relief, as will heat or cold therapy options and rest.

Injury

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The most common injury associated with neck pain is whiplash. Whiplash often occurs during an automobile accident. That’s because whiplash is defined as an injury caused by the severe jerking of the head. This often happens when one vehicle strikes another. Whiplash causes damage to the ligaments, muscles, and tendons in the neck resulting in stiffness, numbness, pain, dizziness, just to name a few.

Some other, more complicated, neck injuries include herniated discs and vertebral fractures. When the vertebral discs in your neck become aggravated due to an injury, the pain can run from your neck down to your toes. A vertebral fracture is slightly more serious and is the result of a vertebra in your neck actually breaking. This type of injury should be treated as life threatening because it relates to the spinal cord.

Severe neck injuries can result in spinal cord damage. When the vertebral bones protecting the spinal cord become disrupted, it can cause paralysis or even death. Here are some tips for reducing your risk of neck injury.

  • Avoid contact sports or colliding during contact sports
  • Wear your seatbelt
  • Always wear a helmet when required (riding a bike or motorcycle or during sports)
  • Never dive head first into shallow water

Though neck injuries can occur under any circumstance, these safety practices can help.

Infections

Believe it or not, not all neck injuries are caused by physical damage to the body. There are a whole host of infections that can cause neck pain. In fact, neck pain resulting from an infection can actually be one of the most painful forms.

So what types of infections cause neck pain? The most common include meningitis and strep throat. Meningitis is the inflammation of the thin tissue found around the brain and spinal cord. No wonder this causes neck pain, since we’ve learned that most neck pain originates from aggravated nerves near the brain or spine. The most common form of meningitis is viral, which is when an infection enters your nose or mouth and attacks the brain. Bacterial meningitis is less common and much more serious. The bacterial form of this infection can actually cause brain damage, making early diagnosis a must. Other symptoms of meningitis may accompany neck pain, including sudden fever and headache.

Strep throat, or streptococcus, can cause pain in the front of a patient’s neck. Unfortunately, strep throat is easily spread through coughing, sneezing, and shaking hands. Because of how easily germs pass among kids, small children, adolescents, and teens are most at risk for this type of infection. Aside from external neck pain, strep throat is often accompanied by soreness in the throat when swallowing, fever, abdominal pain, and swollen lymph nodes. An antibiotic can treat this infection and over the counter pain relievers can help reduce discomfort.

Understand the Symptoms and Treatment

The greatest defense against common neck pain and injury is identifying the symptoms and taking safety measures to prevent injury in the first place. By wearing a seatbelt or helmet and avoiding heavy lifting, you can greatly reduce your risk of a neck injury. Be aware of how your neck is positioned both during the day and while sleeping. This can help prevent neck strain. And of course, if you’re exhibiting any symptoms associated with infections, seek medical attention.

Once the reason for your neck pain is identified and diagnosed, follow the proper protocol for rest to help prevent further injury.

Article Submitted By Community Writer

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