Our neck, connected to our spinal cord is made up of small vertebrae stacked on one another. This spinal cord supports the neck and the head. It also consists of the main network of nerves that carry nerve impulses and messages from the body to the brain.
Furthermore, there are cervical discs made up of cartilage between the vertebrae to give your spinal cord and neck its flexibility. Any injury or abnormalities in the muscle or bones can cause neck pain.
In some cases, the pain can be mild and can create a distraction whereas in some cases, it could cause extreme pain. Often neck pain is centered in one spot and goes away on its own in some days. However, if there is excruciating pain and the mild pain persists for a long time, then you must visit a doctor.
If you live in Long Beach, California, then you can visit the ReVITALize Rehab Club located in Bixby Knolls. The club believes that an injury or old age should not have to control your lifestyle. They try to improve their clients’ posture, mobility, alignment, and strength through their unique treatment of Orthopedic, Holistic, and Sports Medicine Physical Therapy solutions. They will help you determine your neck pain causes and treat it accordingly.
What are the symptoms of neck pain?
Neck pain usually consists of one or more symptoms mentioned below:
- Stiff neck: You could have difficulty and soreness in moving your neck, turning your head or looking up and down.
- General soreness: there may not be a sharp pain at one spot, but you could have general discomfort and soreness all over your neck.
- Sharp pain: At times, the pain may be localized in one spot like a stabbing pain. This could also be excruciating that would require immediate medical attention.
- Numbness or tingling: The neck consists of nerves and sometimes the nerves could get pinched because of the bones and tissues around it putting pressure on it. This could cause numbness or tingling that can be felt down to your arms. Simple exercises may not work in these cases so you will have to see a doctor.
- Dizziness and blackouts: Sometimes you could feel dizzy or light-headed when you are moving your head. This could be because the arteries that run alongside your spine are being pinched. The pinching or vertebral arteries could cause blackouts as the head does not get sufficient blood supply.
- Headaches: The irritation in your neck could also affect the nerves and muscles linked to your head and ultimately cause headache.
- Clicking and grating noise: You may be able to hear a clicking or grating noise when you move your head. It can be due to the air bubbles popping and bones and tissues moving. However, a neck pop would be louder as it is closer to the ears.
- Muscle spasm: At times, you could experience sudden stiffness in your neck and the muscle surrounding your neck. You could gently try moving your head or take pain killers but if it persists for a long time, you should see a doctor.
Causes of neck pain
The following are some of the causes of the symptoms mentioned above.
- Muscle strain and tension: Most of the time, the cause of neck pain would be poor posture, staying in the same position for a long time, falling asleep in an uncomfortable position, or jerking your neck whilst turning your head. All these activities cause the muscles in the neck to stiffen up.
- Heart attack: In some cases, a stiff neck could be an indication of an oncoming heart attack. This also usually occurs in people who have reached a certain age limit. However, just neck pain alone will not be a symptom of a heart attack. The person may also suffer from arm or jaw pain, shortness of breath, vomiting, sweating, and nausea.
- Injury: The most common cause of neck pain is some kind of injury. The neck is especially prone to accidents during sports when the muscles and ligaments in the neck are pushed to their limit. A sudden or powerful movement of the neck called a whiplash could cause mild neck pain. However, in more serious cases, neck bones or cervical vertebrae could be fractured.
- Meningitis: Meningitis is a condition in which the thin tissue that surrounds the spinal cord and the brain gets inflamed. In this condition, the most common symptoms are fever, headache, and neck pain.
- Emotional stress: Sometimes your stress and anxiety could also be behind your neck pain. High-stress levels are known to increase hormone levels that could make your muscles tense.
- Osteoporosis: This is a condition that weakens the bones which could increase the risk for bone fractures. The neck bone could also be harmed during any activity.
- Spondylosis: The cervical discs of cartilage between the vertebrae could degenerate causing in inflexibility and stiffness of the neck and back.
- Rheumatoid arthritis: This causes swelling of the bone spurs and joints. This could result in neck pain.
- Fibromyalgia: This condition causes muscle aching all over your body including your neck.
- Spinal Stenosis: In this condition, the spinal column narrows, which puts preserve on the spinal cord and the nerves in it.
- Spinal tumor: In the worst cases, it could even be a tumor in the spinal cord that is damaging tissues in the spinal column and harming the spinal nerve.
Treatments for neck pain
Sometimes resting for a day or two and gently doing exercises to relax the neck muscles can reduce your pain. However, if the pain persists, you must visit a doctor. Doctors and medical professionals first perform a physical exam and ask for your medical history.
You must also tell them about any recent injury that could have caused the pain. Furthermore, you must tell your doctor about all the symptoms you have had and also any pain medications or muscle relaxers that you have been taking.
The treatment for any kind of neck pain depends upon the diagnosis. For better diagnosis of the pain, the doctors will check up on your medical history and conduct certain tests that are mentioned below.
- CT scans
- Blood tests
- MRI scans
- Electromyography: This allows doctors to check how healthy your muscles are and how healthy the nerves that control your muscles are.
- Lumbar puncture
With the results of these tests, your course of treatment will start. The most basic solutions they will provide for neck pains are:
- Ice and heat therapy
- Pain medications
- Exercise, stretching
- Neck collar
- Antibiotics in case of infection
However, if the treatments mentioned above may not be able to treat your pain, the following are some treatments that have worked for people suffering from neck pain.
- Physical treatments: There are chiropractors and physiotherapists trained to treat neck problems. They generally try stretching and physical exercise to relax the muscles. However, you must ensure that you are seeing a professional and licensed medical professional.
- Manipulation: This is a kind of manual therapy that is used to adjust certain parts of the body to reduce stiffness and soreness. This consists of kneading and manipulating muscles for treating musculoskeletal pain.
- The Alexander technique: This technique teaches you to be aware of your body and reduce the extra muscle tension. The teacher will advise you on proper sitting and standing posture, and also your movement. In cases, where there is a slipped disc, this technique could be helpful.
- TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation): A TENS machine is used to electrically stimulate your muscles with low-voltage shocks and give a pleasant tingling feeling. This could interfere with the pain signals to your brain and reduce them.
- Acupuncture: During acupuncture therapy, thin fine needles and painlessly inserted into the skin at different points. It is proven to relieve pain in certain areas by disrupting pain signals from the muscles to the brain and also release natural painkillers known as endorphins.
- Surgery: Surgery is only required rarely when there is severe pain or underlying health conditions.
- Steroid injections: In some cases, when the pain is not treatable by oral medications, doctors may inject a local anesthetic or steroid injections in the small joints of the neck.
- Drug treatment: If painkillers are not working for you, doctors may prescribe amitriptyline which in loses doses is used to improve sleep and relax the muscles. Furthermore, for more serious neck pain such as nerve problems, gabapentin and pregabalin are prescribed to reduce nerve irritation.
- Radiofrequency denervation: This treatment helps in treating long-term neck pain that occurs due to the facet joints in your neck. Doctors use electric currents that are produced by radio waves to heat a needle and stop nerve endings from sending pain signals to the brain. This treatment is a last resort for patients after trying drug treatments, injections, and others.
The information above highlights the causes and treatments for neck pain. Whilst most neck pain goes away within a few days, and you may want to see a doctor if the pain is getting worse or there are other symptoms in your body. Furthermore, ensure that you clarify with a medical professional before considering any treatment options.