Understanding Neck Pain: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments
Jul 16, 2018
At any one time, 10 percent of the adult population is usually suffering from neck pain.
This condition usually occurs due to several reasons, including injury, degenerative disc disease, neck strain, and a herniated disc. If you’re experiencing the pain, there are ways you can prevent it from wrecking your life.
Simple changes in your lifestyle may be able to avoid the pain before it starts. It’s also important to know the signs that your pain is severe and it’s time to see a doctor or start therapy.
Here’s everything you ever wanted to know about understanding your neck pain.
How to Get Rid of Neck Pain
Apart from ibuprofen, there’s not really a magic pill that will get rid of your pain. The best way to get rid of your neck pain is to figure out what’s causing it and make some changes.
The most common cause of neck pain is bad posture. There are some things you might be doing every day that can be hurting your posture. Here are some simple changes and fixes to improve your posture and decrease your pain.
Fix Your Posture
Bad posture is one of the most significant factors that cause neck pain, and it’s likely caused by hunching over your computer or phone all day. Here are some other factors that can lead to bad posture and eventually neck pain that you might not even be aware of.
If you carry a heavy bag on one side of your body like a messenger bag, this is terrible for your alignment. This sends the alignment of your back out and causes one side of your body to overcompensate.
Being overweight is another cause of neck pain. Again, you are carrying extra weight to a different area of the body which messes up your posture. Carrying too much weight can pull your muscles in different directions which causes pain in areas like the neck.
If you’re always wearing high heels and tight clothes, this can really lead to bad posture, and this changes your center of gravity which screws up your position.
Be aware of how you walk. Often we walk a certain way because of habit. If you’re walking with slumped shoulders and your head down, you’re messing up your body’s alignment and posture which can lead to pain.
If you have past pain injuries, you might be carrying your body in an unnatural way to deal with that pain. This can lead to a habit of bad posture which is hurting your neck.
Watch Out for Text Neck
Text neck is what happens when you lean over your phone to text, leading to bad posture. Prevent this hunching over by bringing your phone’s screen up to your eye level; this will prevent your neck from tipping forward, but also make sure your screen isn’t too high.
Prevent yourself from placing your phone on a table or near your lap. If you’re using a tablet, make sure to prop it up, so it’s eye level, especially if you’re using it over a long period.
Don’t Slouch While Sitting
Be sure that when you’re sitting in a chair that you’re not slouching and your spine is up straight and fully supported. Your chair’s height is important, you should be able to rest your feet on the floor comfortably, and your knees should be level to your hips.
You want to make sure that your monitor is eye level when you sit up straight. If you sit for an extended period, make sure your walk around regularly. If you experience any pain or discomfort, that’s your body telling you it can’t deal, so make an adjustment.
Try The Soldier Sleeping Position
This exercise can help your pain. Just lie down with your head and neck resting on a pillow. Then push your head backward like you’re making a double chin, while you gently press your head back into the pillow.
Do this for 5 seconds for 10 to 15 times. It might feel like your throat is being blocked, but that’s actually completely normal. This exercise might also help you get better sleep.
Try a Sternocleidomastoid (SCM) Stretch
To do this stretch, sit in a chair or stand up straight and rotate your head to the right as you look up at the ceiling. When you do this, your chin should point up at a 45-degree angle.
Then place your left palm very lightly on the top of your head above your right ear. Next, ever so gently pull your head towards your left shoulder.
While doing this make sure you keep your chin pointing upward and try to hold this for 20 to 30 seconds. Try to do this exercise daily to stop any tension that built up during the day.
When To See A Doctor For Your Neck Pain
Be aware, there are some factors and symptoms of neck pain, which is your body telling you it’s time to see a doctor. Make sure you do your research to find the best neck pain specialist. Here are the symptoms you should not ignore.
Neck or Back Pain That Keeps You Up At Night
If your pain is keeping you up at night or getting worst when you try to sleep, while this is not life-threatening, it might be time to see a doctor.
It’s best to get this checked out, especially if you also have a fever. Back or neck pain and a fever could be a sign that you have an infection like meningitis.
The longer you wait to remedy an infection, the worse your infection can get.
You Have Had Cancer
If you have had cancer and are experiencing first-time neck or back pain, this could be a sign that something is wrong with your colon, rectum or ovary.
The American Cancer Society says that growing cancer can put pressure on organs, nerves or blood vessels that can lead to neck or back pain. Another issue is you might not even feel this pain until your tumor is large and cancer has already spread.
So if you have a history of cancer and are experiencing neck or back pain, see a professional as soon as you can.
You are Over 50
The more we age, the more likely we are to have neck or back pain. If you are over 50 years old and have back pain and have recently gained weight, see your doctor for a plan and treatment.
You Are Having Bowel or Bladder Problems, Or Your Legs Keep Getting Weaker
If you noticed that you are having a hard time controlling your blatter and your legs have gotten weaker, see a doctor as soon as possible. This could be a sign of cauda equina syndrome, which a serious condition that needs emergency back surgery.
You Have Had a Fall, Accident or Other Trauma
If you’ve been injured in a fall or accident and you have neck pain after, see a doctor immediately. Even if you can walk fine, new spine pain could be related to the impact.
Keep in mind if you live with osteoporosis, and have recently fallen, you have a higher chance of spine injury.
Pain Radiates Down One Leg or Arm
If you notice pain, numbness, weakness or electrical sensations down one leg, this is called sciatica. Sciatica symptoms can be from tight muscles due to pressure on a spinal nerve root called radiculopathy.
If you have sciatica, your doctor will find out by trying to elicit your symptoms by testing your dermatomes. Dermatomes are part of your skin that is served by spinal nerve roots. This test can help point out the precise spinal nerve root or roots that are irritated.
Bending or Flexing Your Low Back Makes Your Symptoms Worse
If bending or flexing makes your symptoms worse, you might be experiencing a disc problem, like bulging, herniated or degenerative disc disease. You should see a doctor as soon as possible to figure out what the next steps are.
Spinal Stenosis Symptoms
If you feel cramping, weakness, pain and or tingling in your legs, especially when you walk, you might have spinal stenosis. These symptoms are classified as neurogenic claudication, which is serious. You should see your doctor immediately to find out what’s wrong.
Your Pain Persists
If your pain has lasted for more than three weeks, then it could be chronic, and you should immediately seek medical attention.
Chronic pain can be caused by an injury and follows it’s own set of rules. But if you catch it sooner, you might be able to find treatments to help manage the pain and get on with your normal life. The sooner your pain is assessed, the sooner you can start feeling better with treatment.
Feel Better Today
Now that you know what’s causing your neck pain, start making changes today. These changes can be in the form of fixing your posture, wearing looser clothing, or doing exercises that can help your pain go away.
If your pain doesn’t go away in three weeks or if you have a history of cancer or have recently been in an accident, be sure to seek medical attention immediately. For more articles on health, check out our blog.