Neck pain is a frequent complaint that can be caused by many factors. Neck muscles are easily strained by poor posture.
The strain put on the muscles and ligaments in the neck contributes to neck pain. Another common cause is osteoarthritis.
Common Symptoms that Accompany Neck Pain
Neck pain can be unpleasant and make performing everyday tasks difficult. The most common symptoms that are associated with neck pain include:
- Tight Muscles
- Muscle Spasms
- Pain gets worse when staying in one position
- Moving your head is difficult
When You Should See a Professional
Neck pain is rarely a sign of a serious issue. It often improves on its own. Medical attention should be sought if the pain is accompanied by shooting pains, weakness or numbness. If you are experiencing it as a result of an accident or injury, seek help right away.
Seek medical attention when:
- The pain is severe
- There is a shooting pain in shoulders or down arms
- Pain is persistent and lasts for several days
- You feel weak
- There is a tingling sensation
- You have a headache
- Your neck is stiff
Causes for Neck Pain
Your neck is always moving. It experiences a lot of wear. It supports the head and is flexible. It is constantly at risk of being injured. Causes include:
Poor posture and overuse can strain the muscles. Slouching and hunching are quite common when reading, working on your computer, or using your smartphone. It is important that you pay attention to your posture.
To help prevent bad posture, make sure that your monitor is set at the proper level, and use a lumbar support chair.
Bone spurs and herniated disks can increase pressure on the cartilage.
The soft tissue of the neck can be injured if the head is jerked back and forth. This type of injury can happen in auto accidents and falls.
Diseases such as arthritis, meningitis, fibromyalgia, and cancer can cause neck pain.
Neck pain is a symptom that can be present during a heart attack. Other symptoms include arm pain, jaw pain, nausea, vomiting, sweating and shortness of breath. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms along with neck pain, seek medical attention immediately.
Treatment for Neck Pain
Physical therapy is often recommended as a treatment. Our exercise physiologists will work with you to relieve your pain and improve your range of motion. Physical therapy is often recommended for patients that are recovering from an injury, recuperating from surgery, or have chronic pain.
Physical therapy will:
- Strengthen your neck
- Alleviate pain
- Improve range of motion
- Reduce stiffness
- Help prevent it in the future
- Improve posture
There are 2 common types of physical therapy:
Active Physical Therapy
The patient is actively involved in active physical therapy. The patient will physically perform exercises and stretches to improve strength and flexibility.
Passive Physical Therapy
The patient is not required to physically exert themselves in passive physical therapy. This type of therapy helps to reduce swelling and relieve pain. Examples of passive physical therapy include massage, heat therapy, ice packs, ultrasounds, etc.
How To Prevent Neck Pain
Most neck pain is linked to poor posture and age. By making a few changes to your daily routine you can help prevent pain and stiffness in the neck.
- Practice good posture exercises
- Position your monitor at eye level
- Use correct posture when sitting at a desk
- Use an ergonomic chair
- Do not hold your phone with your shoulder
- Quit smoking
- Try to keep your shoulders straight over your hips
- Take breaks
- Get up and move
- Do not carry heavy bags on your shoulders
- When you sleep your head and neck should be in line with your body
Diagnosing Neck pain
If your neck pain is persistent, your doctor will perform an exam. They will test for muscle weakness, tenderness, numbness, and range of motion.
Tests for diagnosing:
An X-ray will allow your doctor to look for degenerative disease, bone spurs, pinched nerves, or a pinched spinal cord.
MRIs can provide detailed images. This type of imaging test is better than an X-ray for looking for soft tissue and tendon injuries. These tests take longer than X-rays and CT scans.
A CT scan is a combination of X-ray scans. It can give your doctor a sectional view of the problem area. It is a quicker test than an MRI. However, it is not as good at diagnosing ligament, tendon, or soft tissue issues.
An EMG test can help your doctor determine if you have a pinched nerve. A needle is inserted into the muscle to determine the nerve conduction velocity. This will help verify that the nerves are working properly.
A blood test is often performed to determine if your pain is being caused by an inflammatory or infectious condition.
We Can Help Relieve Neck Pain
If you are interested in learning how we can help relieve your neck pain, call one of our convenient Sydney Sports and Exercise Physiology locations today.