There’s a good reason that “pain in the neck” is the catch-all term for massive inconveniences — no matter who you are, it can quickly ruin your day. And it turns out, it ruins a lot of days for many people, as nearly 75% of the population deal with some type of neck pain during their lives.
There are many causes of neck pain, some chronic and some temporary. If you’re suffering from a stiff or sore neck, the most pressing concern will be finding relief, and that starts with understanding the source of your pain.
This article will explore possible causes of neck pain and stiffness and various treatment options to get you moving again.
- Poor Posture
Computers may have ushered in a new age of information-sharing, but they’ve also given rise to a whole new level of neck problems.
When you slouch over your computer, or if you have poor posture in general, your head doesn’t rest directly over your cervical spine. It’s extended out, forcing your spine and your neck muscles to work harder and hold more weight, resulting in strains and neck spasms.
Fix your posture by being aware of it throughout the day. Keep your shoulders back, chest open, and ears situated over your shoulders. On long days in front of the computer, take frequent breaks to stretch and shift your position.
- Pulled Muscles
Putting your muscles through new or repetitive movements can push them beyond their limits. If you’re doing a strenuous activity like playing sports, you may have a sore neck creep up on you when you finish.
A sore neck from a pulled muscle can be soothed with a cold compress to numb the pain and ease inflammation. OTC anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen or Aleve can help relieve the aching as well.
An injury from a car accident or collision may require medical attention. If you experience whiplash, you will often have some damage to the ligaments in your neck, but you should check with your doctor to make sure there isn’t additional bone or nerve damage.
- Carrying Too Much Weight
Your spine is flexible, but it can only bear so much. As mentioned, even sticking your head out can put too much weight on your spine. It stands to reason that if you carry a heavy backpack, purse, or armload of items, you’ll strain your neck.
When you carry more weight than you can handle, you compress your spine and bend it into unnatural positions. Carrying an unbalanced load will have a similar effect, as excess weight on one side will contort your spine in various places, including your neck.
You can treat the strain from carrying too much weight by stretching, applying ice, and taking OTC pain relievers. The next time you need to carry something, make sure you hold it close to your body, bend at the knees, and balance the load to keep yourself from dealing with a neck injury.
The tension that builds up from stress can often result in a debilitating duo of neck pain and a headache. And although stress doesn’t always cause a sore neck, it can amplify the pain if there’s another underlying issue.
You can attack the site of your pain directly with neck stretches, but the best long-term remedy is to relieve the stress that brought it on. Exercising, getting a massage, and meditation are excellent stress management solutions that you can start trying immediately.
- Spinal Cord Damage
Breaks in your neck bones and cervical herniated discs can both cause severe neck pain, and a host of issues felt throughout the body. Pain can be managed in both cases, but long-term relief might involve surgery.
Broken neck bones that are the result of an injury make require a brace to keep your head supported and take the stress off of your neck. Herniated discs can usually be treated with OTC pain medications, ice packs, and physical therapy.
Chronic neck pain from a degenerative disease, herniated disc, or bone spurs may require medical intervention even if symptoms are manageable. If you suffer from a cervical spinal issue, you can see more from Neurosurgery One on the latest treatment options.
- Pinched Nerve
A pinched nerve can pop up from several neck issues, including a herniated disc or a strained muscle. It occurs when tissue presses down on a nerve, resulting in a tingling sensation, numbness, or sharp pain that radiates through the affected area. Tissue can be cartilage, as in the case of a slipped disc, or it could be swollen neck muscles and tendons.
A temporary strain can cause a pinched nerve that will eventually go away, but persistent pain should be investigated by a doctor. You can avoid pinched nerves by maintaining correct posture and exercising regularly.
Older individuals may develop chronic neck pain from age-related illnesses, particularly arthritis.
Arthritis in the neck, called cervical spondylosis, is extremely common for people over 60. Not all individuals with the condition will experience symptoms, but those who do often report pain and stiffness consistent with most types of arthritis.
Fortunately, treating this type of neck pain doesn’t always require surgery. Instead, your doctor may recommend a PT routine coupled with various prescription and non-prescription pain medications or steroid injections.
Talk to Your Doctor about the Causes of Neck Pain
Don’t let a sore neck keep you from doing what you love. If you suffer from recurring or persistent aching and stiffness, it’s time to talk to your doctor about the various causes of neck pain.
It’s an extremely common issue, but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss your pain as an inescapable nuisance. Taking time to talk with your doctor about your concerns during your next visit can open your eyes to underlying issues and early treatment options, so you can finally enjoy permanent relief.
Better living is more than getting over your neck pain. Follow our blog for more outstanding health and lifestyle advice.