If you’re experiencing a literal “pain in the neck,” you know how severely it can impact your daily routine and quality of life. Whether it’s a sharp sting or a dull ache, chronic neck pain can be highly disruptive and may even indicate a more serious underlying issue.
Patients who suffer from neck pain that lasts three or more months are likely eager to find relief. In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at neck pain and its causes and symptoms, as well as when it’s time to go see a doctor.
Understanding Neck Pain
Neck pain is any discomfort in the neck, which is the part of the body that connects the head to the spine. The neck contains bones, muscles, ligaments, nerves, and other tissues that all work together to support and move the head.
Neck pain can be caused by a variety of factors, including:
Muscle Strain or Tension
This is the most common cause of neck pain. It can be caused by overuse, such as too many hours hunched over a computer or smartphone, or by poor posture.
Whiplash is a common type of neck injury that is caused by a sudden jerking motion of the head and neck, such as in a car accident. Neck injuries can also be caused by sports, falls, or other accidents.
Arthritis can cause wear and tear on the joints in the neck, leading to pain and stiffness.
Degenerative Disc Disease
This condition causes the discs between the vertebrae in the spine to break down, which can put pressure on the nerves and cause neck pain.
A herniated disc occurs when the soft center of a disc bulges or ruptures, putting pressure on a nerve.
A pinched nerve can be caused by a herniated disc, bone spurs, or swelling.
Other Medical Conditions
Neck pain can also be a symptom of other medical conditions, such as meningitis, cancer, or tumors.
Neck pain can be acute (lasting less than 6 weeks) or chronic (lasting longer than 3 months). Acute neck pain is usually caused by a muscle strain or injury and will often go away on its own with rest and home treatment. Chronic neck pain may require more aggressive treatment, such as medication, physical therapy, or injections.
Symptoms That Require Medical Attention
While most instances of neck pain are harmless and resolve on their own, some symptoms should not be ignored as they might indicate a more serious condition. These include severe pain that doesn’t improve with rest, radiating pain that extends down your arms or legs, difficulty gripping or lifting objects, problems with coordination, or symptoms that persist for several days without relief.
Each of these symptoms can signify different issues. For example, radiating pain could signal nerve involvement, while difficulty with coordination might suggest a more serious neurological problem.
Chronic neck pain patients should monitor their condition closely. If you notice your pain is worsening, not improving despite home care, or is accompanied by other worrying symptoms such as unexplained weight loss or fever, it’s time to consult a doctor.
Diagnostic Tests for Neck Pain
When you visit a doctor for neck pain, they may order several diagnostic tests to determine the root cause. These can include X-rays to look at the structure of your neck, CT scans or MRIs for a more detailed view, and EMG (electromyography) tests to evaluate nerve function. These tests and their results provide medical practitioners insight into your condition and guide them in their treatment plan.
Treatment Options for Neck Pain
Treatment for neck pain depends on its cause and severity. It can range from conservative treatments such as medication and physical therapy to invasive procedures like surgery.
Medications like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), muscle relaxants, or corticosteroids can help reduce inflammation and manage pain. Physical therapy can improve posture, flexibility, and strength, reducing the risk of future neck pain. In severe cases where other treatments have failed or if the cause is serious (like a herniated disc compressing a nerve), surgery may be necessary.
Each treatment option carries benefits and risks, which should be discussed thoroughly with your healthcare provider.
Treat Neck Pain With HPM
HPM operates pain management clinics in rural towns across a growing number of states in the U.S. Our medical staff are specially trained in diagnosing and treating a wide range of painful conditions. We utilize the latest advancements in treating pain, and many of our patients have experienced great results.
If you are experiencing chronic neck pain, keep a record of your symptoms, consult a professional, and take active steps toward managing your neck pain effectively. Relief is available! Find an HPM location near you.