Pain in the Neck

Photo by Antonika Chanel on Unsplash

Neck pain is a common complaint among adults. If you are experiencing neck pain, it can range from being minor to excruciating pain, bothering and interfering your quality of life. In  some scenarios, it may even be debilitating.

Some of the symptoms related to neck pain are:

  • Stiff neck. Some people may describe the stiffness as tightness or having hard muscles at the neck.
  • Pain when moving. Certain movement of the neck makes the pain worse, such as turning left or right, or when bending the neck forward or backwards.
  • Restricted motion. The pain may be such that motion becomes restricted and the range of motion becomes narrowed.
  • Sharp pain. At times, sharp or stabbing pain may be experienced. It can be when the neck is tilted or bent at a certain angle, or it may also be prolonged pain.
  • Upper back or shoulder pain. Pain may extend downward or outward to involve the upper back and/or shoulder.
  • Pain or numbness in the hands. When the nerve is affected, typically arising when there is nerve compression, pain can radiate to either or both sides of the arms and fingers.  Instead of pain, sensation of numbness, tingling, burning, or feeling of weakness may appear in some instances.  Pain or numbness may be felt on only a certain portion or even a large part of the arm and fingers.
  • Headache. Instead of the arm, pain may extend upward, causing a headache or migraine.
  • Chest tightness. This can happen when poor blood circulation extends to the upper back, resulting in impinged nerve extending to the chest area.

The beginning of a mild, chronic neck pain is most likely due to muscular tension. However, if left untreated for a prolonged period of time, it can lead to cervical spondylosis (degeneration of neck spine and muscle) and loss of cervical lordosis (natural curvature of the neck), which in turn form a vicious cycle. Other causes of neck pain include slipped disc and spurs. The pain may start off as mild discomfort or tightness and gets more severe as time goes by, or it can also be sudden and acute, often a result of injury or trauma.

Below are some common causes of neck pain:

  1. Sitting or staying in one position for too long
  2. Sleeping in an incorrect position that puts strain on the neck muscles
  3. Sports related injury
  4. Accidents such as fall or whiplash from car accident
  5. Secondary or compensatory neck pain from other issues such as lower back pain

Maintaining good blood circulation in the neck area is the key to managing neck pain. Here are some ways that you can help yourself:

1. Exercises

Avoid sitting in one position for too long. It is recommended to take a little break and move after one hour. You can set alarms and remind yourself to do neck exercises and stretches regularly. Some of these can be done when you are sitting down. You can also take up a regular activity that works out the upper body, such as dancing, ball games or yoga.

2. Posture

It is important to adopt good postures. Slouching happens when your head is positioned in front of your neck, creating a forward head posture. Such posture can cause neck pain as it strains muscles and ligaments that support the neck. When working or studying, check that your chair, table and computer are placed at the correct height and positions. If you are working from home, avoid working on the couch or bed. These are unfavourable places to work at as your posture is most likely not upright.

3. Pain-killers

For traumas and injuries where the pain is unbearable, pain killers can help greatly. However, such measures are only temporary as they do not address the condition directly. Do seek treatment as soon as possible for persistent pain that does not get better.

4. Treatments 

Treatments for neck pain include acupuncture, scrapping, manipulation and traction. For minor pain, a massage would also help to relieve tension and discomfort.