The Facts Behind Neck Pain
By Neurosurgery Singapore
Many people experience neck pain or stiffness occasionally. In many cases, it’s due to poor posture or overuse. Sometimes, the reason is caused by injury from a fall, contact sports, or whiplash.
Your neck is made up of vertebrae that extend from the skull to the upper torso. Cervical discs absorb shock between the bones.
The bones, ligaments, and muscles of your neck support your head and allow for motion. Any abnormalities, inflammation, or injury can cause neck pain or stiffness.
Additionally, a number of disorders and diseases and can involve any of the tissues in the neck. Examples of common conditions causing neck pain are degenerative disc disease, neck strain, osteoarthritis, cervical spondylosis, spinal stenosis, poor posture. It could also be neck injury such as in whiplash, a herniated disc, or a pinched nerve.
Such pain could also come from common infections, such as virus infection of the throat, leading to lymph node (gland) swelling and pain. It may also come from rare infections, such as tuberculosis of the neck, infection of the spine bones in the neck, and meningtis (often accompanied by neck stiffness).
What are some symptoms related to neck pain?
Signs and symptoms of neck pain include:
- Pain that’s often worsened by holding your head in one place for long periods, such as when driving or working at a computer
- Muscle tightness and spasms
- Decreased ability to move your head
“The outlook for neck pain depends on the precise cause. Most forms of neck pain can resolve with conservative measures including rest, avoiding reinjury, and gradual rehabilitation.”
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What types of treatments?
The treatment of neck pain depends entirely on the cause of the problem. Therefore, it is of utmost importance that you understand the cause of your symptoms before embarking on a treatment program. If you are unsure of your diagnosis, or the severity of your condition, you should seek medical advice before beginning any treatment.
Our doctor might prescribe stronger pain medicine, as well as muscle relaxants and pain relief.
- Physical therapy. Our physical therapist can teach you correct posture, alignment and neck-strengthening exercises, and can use heat, ice, electrical stimulation and other measures to help ease your pain and prevent a recurrence.
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). Electrodes placed on your skin near the painful areas deliver tiny electrical impulses that may relieve pain.
- Traction. Traction uses weights, pulleys or an air bladder to gently stretch your neck.
- Short-term immobilization. A soft collar that supports your neck may help relieve pain by taking pressure off the structures in your neck.
Surgical and other procedures
- Steroid injections. Our doctor might inject corticosteroid medications near the nerve roots, into the small facet joints in the bones of the cervical spine or into the muscles in your neck to help with pain. Numbing medications, such as lidocaine, also can be injected to relieve your neck pain.
- Surgery. Rarely needed for neck pain, surgery might be an option for relieving nerve root or spinal cord compression.
Things you can do to ease your pain
If neck pain is not debilitating and didn’t start as the result of trauma, then often the pain can be treated by oneself. Self-care options can include:
- Rest. With most neck strains and sprains, going easy for a few days is all that is needed while the muscles and tendons heal on their own. It is important to be careful to avoid strenuous activities or movements that are causing more pain.
- Ice and/or heat. Applying ice can work as an anti-inflammatory to reduce swelling and pain. Initially, it’s better to apply ice or cold packs on the neck because they can temporarily close small blood vessels and prevent swelling from becoming worse. After a couple days, ice or heat can be applied on an alternating basis. Applying continuous heat can cause increased swelling.