The neck is an integral part of human anatomy. It holds your head up, not to mention allows you to move your head in multiple directions. The neck contains vocal cords, which enable you to speak, not to mention the throat so you can eat and drink. Neck pain can come from a plethora of conditions and is just that: painful and uncomfortable. When your neck hurts, the pain can disrupt daily tasks and have long-term effects. Keep reading to gain a better understanding of symptoms and causes of neck pain, as well as when to see the doctor.
Neck pain comes from a variety of things from poor posture to trauma. In most cases, people experience neck pain without a specific reason. However, common causes include abnormalities in spinal bones and joints, whiplash, or 'wear and tear' from age. Genetics and even stress are two other factors. Ergonomics can also play a role in neck pain. Sleeping on a poorly supported mattress or sitting long hours in a poorly designed chair can lead to neck pain.
Yes! Whether you're watching TV, using a computer, or playing on a cell phone, technology can lead to neck pain. On average, the human head weighs 12 pounds. When looking down at a monitor that is too low, your head is at a 15-degree angle; this means your neck and spine must balance 27 pounds of pressure. If you're holding a phone at chest level to text, play games, or check social media, the head is at a 30-degree angle, applying 40 pounds of pressure. Do you ever sit down to watch an episode of your favorite Netflix show with your laptop on your lap? That 45-degree angle is forcing your neck to support 49 pounds of pressure!
A chiropractor will determine the best way to perform a spinal adjustment based on the severity and location of your pain. The procedures realign bones in places like the spine and hips. As we saw from head angles, appropriate alignment is critical because it takes unnecessary pressure off joints and muscles. You may have to visit the chiropractor several times before your body is correctly aligned.
When experiencing neck pain, it’s important to keep muscles loose and flexible. To do this, engage in physical activity on a regular basis, but make sure you always stretch first. Another excellent remedy for neck pain is a massage. Not only does it feel good, but massage releases tight muscles and improves blood flow. Aside from these options, you should implement overall lifestyle changes like practicing good posture and creating an ergonomic workspace.
Whiplash occurs when the head suddenly moves forward or backward in a jerking motion. The unexpected movement creates a strain on the muscles and tendons. Whiplash is a common injury from car accidents or contact sports and can cause pain, tenderness, or headaches that start at the base of the skull and travel to the top of the head. In addition to neck pain, you might also experience tightness in the neck that restricts movement. You can have signs of whiplash immediately following the injury or days later.
A stinger is a common injury among athletes in contact sports. It happens when pressure is applied to the neck, stretching or pinching a nerve. Symptoms of stingers include immediate weakness and numbness in the arms that fade within 24 hours. However, too many stingers can lead to permanent issues. Chronic stinger syndrome can cause neck pain, tingling, and weakness that does not pass, along with degenerative changes in the spine.
There are exercises to alleviate dizziness caused by neck injuries; however, it’s best to visit a physical therapist to avoid straining your muscles and making things worse. Your physical therapist may recommend exercises like using your eyes to trace letters or shapes without moving your head, following a target with your eyes while holding the head still, and keeping your eyes on a single spot as you move your head.
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is most common in the hands and feet, but it can happen anywhere in the body. Symptoms of RA include head and neck pain accompanied by numbness or a tingling sensation in the arms and fingers. It’s best to see a doctor when experiencing these symptoms as they could be a result of degenerative changes in the spine.
If you’re waking up with neck pain, then you need better support. Sleeping with a pillow that holds your head in a position out of line with your spine, or one that is too firm or too soft can hinder proper neck support. People with different neck shapes and sleeping positions can choose from pillows with permanent contours that support the curve of the neck or those with memory foam fill that conforms to the shape of the head and neck, providing support to both.
If you have neck pain as a result of an injury, it is best to seek medical attention right away. When you feel pain or numbness travel from the neck down the arms or legs, get help immediately. Even if you haven’t experienced an injury, you should still make an appointment with your medical provider, especially if your neck pain lingers or gets worse.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.