We’ve all felt an ache in our neck at one time or another. Whether it be from staring down at a phone for too long or sleeping in an awkward position, everyone can relate to experiencing neck pain. But that also means that everyone has experienced trying to find the right treatment to alleviate their neck pain as quickly and effectively as possible.
It affects a majority of the general population on an annual basis, with about 1 in 3 people feeling neck pain at least once a year. It’s more common in females than males, and can become chronic as you age.
Read on to learn about the ins and outs of neck pain, potential causes, and a variety of treatment options to help get rid of the pain.
The basics of neck pain
Neck pain is felt in the cervical spine, which is made up of seven bones, known as vertebrae, that are separated by intervertebral discs. The top of the spinal region connects to the skull while the bottom connects to the upper back.
Neck pain can vary in severity depending on the cause. In many cases, it’s acute pain that goes away quickly on its own if it’s from a simple cause such as tense muscles due to sitting at the computer for too long. But there are also many injuries and medical conditions that can have neck pain as a symptom as well. The ache is defined as chronic pain if the ache lasts longer than three months.
There are two main types of neck pain: axial pain and radicular pain. Axial pain is felt almost solely in the cervical spine region, though it can occasionally spread to the shoulders as well. Radicular pain refers to radiating pain along the nerves that can branch up to your head or down your arms due to irritated nerves.
6 potential causes of neck pain
Even though you might want to just brush off neck pain, it’s important to pinpoint the exact reason for the ache to ensure that you’re treating the entire cause. There are quite a few reasons that you may be experiencing neck pain. While some causes are due to everyday wear and tear, others are conditions or injuries that require assistance from a medical professional.
Six possible causes of neck pain are:
- Spondylosis — As you get older, it’s possible for the wear and tear that you put on your spine to result in degeneration of the intervertebral disks. Spondylosis is often used to describe osteoarthritis of the spine.
- Muscle strain — If the neck muscle fibers or tendons are stretched too much, it can cause a muscle strain, often referred to as a pulled muscle. A neck strain can be caused by lifting heavy objects, sustaining an injury from sports and poor posture.
- Radiculopathy — Usually referred to as a pinched nerve, radiculopathy occurs when there’s pressure or irritation on the nerves. It can result in pain along the nerves as well as numbness and muscle weakness.
- Herniated disc — A spinal disc has a nucleus that’s protected by a tough outer ring, called the annulus. When the nucleus pushes through a crack or tear in the annulus, it’s referred to as a herniation. The neck pain stems from the nucleus putting pressure on a nerve root.
- Spinal stenosis — Also called cervical myelopathy, spinal stenosis refers to the narrowing of the spinal canal. It’s usually caused by degeneration as well as bone spurs that push against the spinal cord.
- Whiplash — One of the most common neck injuries is whiplash, which occurs when the head moves in a rapid back-and-forth movement. It’s a soft tissue injury that can occur from car accidents as well as sports injuries.
Treatments that help to get rid of neck pain
If you’re experiencing persistent or worsening aches in your neck, it’s time to explore the treatment options that can help get rid of neck pain. There are quite a few treatments that may help, but the most effective options can be accomplished with the help of a physical therapist.
Treatment options to help get rid of neck pain include:
- Assistive device — Depending on the severity of your neck condition or injury, a physical therapist may recommend that you wear a soft neck collar. The goal of the collar is to reduce excessive neck movement and ease the pressure on the joints and muscles.
- Cold and heat therapy — Ice packs and heating compresses are both tried-and-true methods for alleviating pain. Applying an ice pack to the neck should be one of your first treatments if you’re experiencing neck pain. It will numb the area and reduce blood flow. Depending on the cause of your neck pain, a physical therapist may show you how to properly alternate between a cold pack and a heat pack to loosen the tissue.
- Exercises — One of the best ways to get rid of neck pain is by stretching and strengthening your neck muscles. A physical therapist can walk you through the safest and most effective exercises to reduce the pressure on your nerves and joints as well as increase the neck’s flexibility for a greater range of motion.
- Posture improvement — Poor posture can cause weak neck muscles and increase the risk of muscle strain or degenerative issues. A physical therapist can help you make slight adjustments to ensure that your neck is in a proper position when you sit, stand and walk.
Forever Fit can help to get rid of neck pain
Neck pain can make it hard to accomplish relatively simple tasks, such as looking up to the top shelf in a closet or turning your head to talk to a co-worker. We can help find the treatment that works best for your particular cause to get rid of your neck pain as efficiently as possible.
When you’re ready to get rid of neck pain, contact our team today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment.