Neck Pain: Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention

Overview

Neck pain is a very common problem that affects many people. In many cases, people develop neck pain because of poor posture or overuse. But other diseases and injuries may also be the underlying reasons for neck pain. If the situation is severe and the pain lingers for weeks, or even months, you should seek medical care.

In many cases, neck pain can be relieved within a few days. Non-surgical treatment methods are applied to help people with the condition to feel less pain. But sometimes, when the neck pain is accompanied by other serious symptoms, the doctor may need to take different treatment approaches accordingly.

In general, neck pain is a very common condition. In the adult population, about 12.1% to 71.5% of people are estimated to have pain in their neck. Also, females may have higher chances of having neck pain than males. About 12% of adult female population have neck pain while only 9% of the adult male population has the same condition.

Causes

In fact, any abnormality, inflammation or injury can lead to neck pain or stiffness because the neck area is very delicate and vulnerable. If the neck pain condition is not severe, it is mostly the result of muscle strain. Poor posture while working, reading, watching TV, using the computer and sleeping all may lead to pain in the neck.

When it comes to acute neck pain, there may be much more potential causes. That is to say, neck pain could be one of the symptoms for various diseases such as:

  • Degenerative Disc Disease
  • Herniated Disc
  • Stenosis
  • Arthritis
  • Spinal Tumors
  • Cervical Radiculopathy
  • Fractures
  • Heart attack
  • Meningitis
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Spondylosis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Spinal cancers
  • Tumors
  • Infections

Therefore, if your neck feels really painful and has other serious symptoms such as difficulty breathing, vomiting, nausea and so on, you should go to the hospital as soon as possible, get an accurate diagnosis and receive immediate medical attention accordingly.

Symptoms

For people with neck pain, they usually feel stiffness and pain in the neck. The painful feeling can last for a couple of days, weeks or even months. In the process, they may also have headaches and have trouble moving their heads. Typically, after holding their heads in one place for long periods of time without moving, people with the condition tend to experience more severe pain afterward. For some patients, muscle tightness and spasms may occur as well.

Diagnosis

Apart from a physical examination, a person who presents with neck pain may need to go through some imaging tests so that the doctor can give out a detailed and accurate diagnosis.

  • X-rays. Using invisible electromagnetic energy beams, this test can produce images of the bones. Thus, the doctor can decide whether there are bony abnormalities.
  • Computed tomography (CT) scan. This is a diagnostic imaging procedure can produce detailed images of the bones, muscles, fat, and organs, which can help the doctor to better visualize the situation.
  • Magnetic resonance (MR) imaging. With large magnets, radio waves, and a computer, this test aims to check if the organs and structures of the patient are functioning well.

With the above test results, the doctor can make a definite diagnosis.

Treatment

Although treating neck pain may vary according to the exact causes of the condition, most of the cases can be treated with nonoperative measures, which may include the following:

  • Pain relievers
  • Ice or heat therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Corticosteroid injections
  • Acupuncture
  • Antibiotics if you have an infection
  • Gentle neck massage

People with neck pain should be careful when engaging in physical activities. Taking a few days to have a decent rest will be a good idea. But proper stretching exercises can be beneficial to ease the symptoms.

In severe situations, surgery may also be required. A spinal fusion procedure is often done by the doctor in this situation.

Prevention

To avoid future neck pain, people with the condition may pay attention to the following aspects:

  • Maintain good posture in daily life
  • Do not tuck the phone between the neck and shoulder
  • Do not maintain the same position for too long
  • Change a neck pillow for sleeping
  • Exercise on a regular basis

Keywords: neck pain.

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* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.