Neck pain is a common complaint. Neck muscles can be strained from poor posture — whether it’s leaning into your computer at work or hunching over your workbench at home. Wear-and-tear arthritis also is a common cause of neck pain.
Rarely, neck pain can be a symptom of a more serious problem. Seek medical care if your neck pain is accompanied by numbness or loss of strength in your arms or hands or if you’re experiencing shooting pain into your shoulder or down your arm
What Causes Neck Pain?
￼ Most neck pain is caused by activities that involve repeated or prolonged movements of the neck. This can result in a strain (an overstretched or overused muscle), a sprain (injury to a ligament), or a spasm of the neck muscles.
These activities include:
- Holding your head in a forward or odd position for long periods of time while working, reading, watching TV, or talking on the telephone.
- Sleeping on a pillow that is too high or too flat or that doesn’t support your neck, or sleeping on your stomach with your neck twisted or bent.
- Spending long periods of time resting your head on your upright fist or arm.
- Work or exercise that uses the upper body and arms, such as painting a ceiling or other overhead work.
Stress and focusing intensely on a task can also cause neck pain. Tension may develop in one or more of the muscles that connect the head, neck, and shoulders. They may feel tight and painful.
Injuries that cause neck pain
Minor injuries may occur from tripping or falling a short distance or from excessive motion of the cervical spine .
Severe neck injuries may occur from:
- Whiplash in a car accident.
- Falls from significant heights.
- Direct blows to the face or to the back or top of the head.
- Sports-related accidents.
Certain medical problems can cause neck pain. These include:
Problems related to aging, such as:
- Narrowing of the spinal canal (cervical spinal stenosis).
- Arthritis of the neck (cervical spondylosis).
Illnesses such as:
- Meningitis, which causes inflammation around the tissues of the brain and spinal cord.
- Flu, which tends to make the neck and the rest of the body ache all over.
Chronic conditions such as:
- Rheumatoid arthritis.
- Ankylosing spondylitis.
- Torticollis: Torticollis (wryneck). Torticollis is caused by severe muscle tightness or a shortened muscle on one side of the neck, causing the head to be tilted to one side. Torticollis is usually a symptom of another medical problem.
- Referred pain. Referred pain occurs when a problem in one place in the body causes pain in another place. For example, a problem with your jaw (temporomandibular disorder) or your heart (such as a heart attack) can cause neck pain.
Dangers of Drugs for Neck Pain Treatment
Millions of Australians depend on anti-inflammatory drugs to relieve pain, but the drugs are among the most dangerous on the market. Aside from significantly increasing your heart risks (such as a two to fourfold increase in the risk of heart attacks, stroke or cardiovascular death), NSAIDs are linked to serious gastrointestinal risks like bleeding of the digestive tract, increased blood pressure and kidney problems. Remember, this applies not only to prescription medications like Celebrex but also to over-the-counter drugs like aspirin, Advil and Motrin.
It’s very difficult to find a drug-based method of pain relief that is not saddled with severe side effects. The FDA has even recently limited the amount of acetaminophen allowed in prescription products and added a boxed warning due to liver toxicity concerns. Acetaminophen is actually the leading cause of acute liver failure in the United States.
As for the opioid painkillers like OxyContin, they are among the most commonly abused prescription drugs and are a leading contributor to the rising rates of fatal prescription drug overdoses. Many become addicted after using them to treat conditions like back or neck pain.
But no matter what type of painkiller you choose, the bottom line to remember is that they do not come without risks! Unfortunately, if you visit your conventional doctor with severe neck pain, a long-term treatment plan will typically include a drug-combination approach, using anti-inflammatory drugs, anti-seizure medications, muscle relaxants and possibly other types of pain medication as well. In other words, the answer for pain relief is drugs, drugs and more drugs — each one raising your risk of suffering potentially lethal side effects.
Powerful drugs can numb your nervous system so the pain doesn’t register. While these approaches may be convenient, they can cause adverse effects and kidney or liver damage. Worse, they don’t correct the underlying cause of the headache.
How to Relieve Neck Pain Naturally:
Take a load off. One of the simplest ways to relieve neck pain is to lie down and give your neck muscles a chance to recover. But don’t use a thick pillow that crimps your neck.
- Ice it. Ice effectively numbs pain and decreases inflammation. Put crushed ice in a plastic bag and cover the bag with a pillowcase (a terry towel is too thick to effectively transmit the cold). Apply the icepack to your stiff neck for 15 minutes at a time.
- Heat it up. Heat increases circulation and can be effective for easing stiff muscles. Use a wet towel or a hot water bottle, or stand in a hot shower. But don’t keep it up for too long. Too much heat can aggravate symptoms and cause more pain. You might even want to try following up your heat application with a few minutes of cold treatment.
- Relax. Emotional stress can trigger muscle tension. Pay attention to what stresses you: your drive to work, your rush to get dinner on the table each night, meetings with your boss, and so on. After you’ve identified your common stressors, think creatively about ways to reduce your stress. One way to manage stress is through relaxation techniques, such as progressive relaxation or abdominal breathing.
- To perform progressive relaxation, find a quiet place where you won’t be disturbed. Sit or lie down and close your eyes. Then, starting with your head and neck and working down the entire body, consciously tighten, or tense, and then completely release the muscles in the area.
- To perform abdominal breathing, sit quietly and take a slow, deep breath all the way into your abdomen; place a hand on your abdomen to feel it expand and confirm you are breathing deeply enough. Then exhale completely, gently sucking in your stomach. Breathe slowly and deeply like this for several minutes (if you do this too quickly, you may begin to hyperventilate).
- Other relaxation techniques include meditation, yoga, and exercise. In addition, you may want to develop some of your own methods of relaxation, such as engaging in a hobby or listening to peaceful music. Do whatever works for you.
- Use massage. Massage can help ease tense muscles and give temporary relief, and it may help you sleep better. First, take a hot bath or shower to relax the muscles. Then, have your partner use oil or lotion and rub your neck and shoulders using the fingers to apply gentle pressure in small circular motions. Next, have your partner rub your neck and shoulders using firm pressure and long, downward strokes. Don’t forget the chest area. If you don’t have a willing partner, try rubbing your own neck and chest area with oil or lotion for 10 or 15 minutes.
- ￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼￼ Chiropractic Care : Chiropractic works by opening stuck joints, returning movement to the spine, and removing any nerve impingement that might be happening. If a disc herniation is involved, chiropractic is a natural way to provide a long-term solution. Chiropractic gets to the source of the problem, not just addressing the symptoms but finding the area of dysfunction and returning it normal physiology—in other words, making the area work the way it’s supposed to. When function returns, pain goes away. But mind you, getting rid of pain is not the only name of the game as far as chiropractic is concerned; return to function is the real goal, because when function returns, pain goes away on its own. Pain is nothing more than a warning signal telling you when something is wrong. Shutting off the alarm instead of investigating what is causing the alarm to go off only sets you up for a recurring problem. Once found, the solution can then be applied.