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Neck Pain Causes

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Many of us face neck pain at some point of time - Most of them are minor or self-curative though few neck pains are more serious. A variety of causes including muscular tightness in both neck and upper back or joint disruption, or pinching of nerves from the cervical vertebrate leads to neck pain. A neck pain or Cervicalgia either causes a pain at the neck joint or creates a feeling of stiffness, soreness or cramps in the neck.


Neck pain causes

The lower neck and upper back that supports the head are the common areas that are prone to neck pain. Most of the movement of neck and head is because of the top three joints that make the head firmly sit on the neck. An adverse affect on any of these joints tightens the muscle in the area leading to a neck pain.


Injuries: The cervical vertebra that surrounds the spinal cord and the canal is the supporting block of the spine in the neck. The vertebrae pass through the nerves and discs of the neck. An injury to the bones or these joints through motor vehicle or driving accidents or falls or sporting activities may cause neck pain.


The neck area also includes muscles, arteries, veins, lymph glands, thyroid gland, parathyroid glands, esophagus, larynx, and trachea. Disease or an adverse condition of any of these soft tissues may cause neck pain. Certain automobile collisions or road accidents resulting in whiplash injury may cause neck pain.


Degenerative and Inflammatory Disease:

Most old people may face neck pain due to degenerative diseases like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. As people grow older, their joints also become weak resulting in neck pain.


Neck pain may also result due to cervical disk degeneration where the normal gelatin-like center of the disk that degenerates and the vertebrae become narrow. Such damage becomes severe when extra stress is applied to the joints. Few cases might also lead to herniated cervical disk where the cervical disk may protrude and cause pressure on the spinal cord or the nerve roots.


Other causes of neck pain might include incorrect posture while sleeping or constant use of computer. Some rare causes for neck pain include slipped disc, brittle bones (osteoporosis), deformed natural curvature of the spine (scoliosis), tumors, infections or congenital abnormalities of the vertebrae.


Neck pain symptoms

Most neck pain is associated with dull aching that is felt when you move the neck. Following are few symptoms associated with a neck pain.


  • numbness around the neck area

  • tingling, tenderness or shooting pain in the neck

  • stiffness in your neck muscles

  • difficulty swallowing

  • dizziness or lightheadedness

  • radiation of neck pain to shoulders

  • radiation of neck pain into the back

  • radiation of neck pain into arms, hands and up to head resulting in one-sided or double-sided headache

  • abnormal neck posture where the head is forced to turn to one side (torticollis)

Few cases of neck pain may also result in meningitis. Seek immediate medical attention if you have any of the following symptoms


  • a rash in the neck area that do not fade if pressed with finger or object

  • neck pain that is associated with fever or illness with higher temperature

  • if the light causes pain to your eyes

  • neck pains associated with severe headache or vomiting

  • neck pain associated with severe back pain

  • difficulty in bending your neck forward.

Neck pain may also be a symptom of head injury or disc trouble in the neck. Hence, if you have any of the following symptoms, seek immediate medical attention.


  • neck pain caused as a result of injury accompanied by drowsiness or vomiting

  • neck pain accompanied by headache

  • neck pain along with pain behind one eye

  • if your vision, hearing, taste or balance is affected associated with a neck pain

  • severe vomiting

  • neck pain associated with reduced muscle powers in arms and legs.

Neck pain diagnosis

Upon your report of symptoms, the doctor might diagnose the location of the pain and check for the intensity, duration, and radiation of pain through various methods. The doctor examines the neck in both rest and motion, detects the tenderness during palpation of the neck. In order to ensure that no nerve involvement is present in the neck pain, the doctor might prescribe you for an examination of nervous system. Based on your condition the doctor or chiropractor might prescribe you for tests like X-ray, CAT scan, bone scan, MRI scan, myelogram, and electrical tests like electromyography (EMG), and nerve condition velocity test (NCV).



Neck pain relief


Most neck pains are effectively treated with rest, medication, immobilization, physical therapy, exercise, activity modifications, traction, heat/ice applications, soft collar, traction, local injections of cortisone or anesthetics, topical anesthetic creams, topical pain patches, muscle relaxants and analgesics.

You can gain some neck pain relief by using the right pillow - one that provides cervical support to align your head and neck for sleeping. You can alternatively use a feather pillow and roll a small towel and tuck it in to support your neck. Ice packs or cold massage might help reduce inflammation, swelling and neck pain. For some, heat application through a heat pad or hot water bottle might give relief from neck pain.



Neck pain treatment

Medications - Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or analgesics like acetaminophen and other muscle relaxants such as orphenadrine, tizanidine are often recommended for neck pains. Topical creams may be prescribed in few cases of patients with neck pain.


Treatment Procedures - Neck pain that arises at the bottom of the skull disappears without treatment. Whereas neck pain caused by inflammation is treated with rest and neck collar for a short period. The doctor might also prescribe some medications to reduce inflammation. Physical therapies such as mobilization or manipulation are prescribed for chronic and acute neck pains.


Self-Help Techniques : You can also try few self-help techniques like stretching and strength building exercise to ease neck pain. Neck pain is often associated with the sitting posture of an individual. Forward stooped posture interrupts or strains the normal cervical lordosis resulting in severe back and neck pain.


Surgery: Surgery is the last option for neck pain and is recommended in very rare cases where the pain is developed due to the instability, cancer, severe spinal cord compression, and failure to physical therapy after long months. Surgery is not a choice for pinched nerves or herniated discs.


Bibliography / Reference:


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