Neck pain is more than just a temporary condition that could have been brought about by sleeping in the wrong position or straining your neck. The cervical spine (which ends at the neck area) was built for more than just support. It was created to house a long and complicated network of nerves, joints, bones, and many more.
As mentioned above, common neck pain is temporary and can last for a number of days. However, pain that lasts far longer than that may be brought about by different medical reasons. Therapy may be needed. However, your condition needs to be checked and assessed carefully by a physician.
When to See a Doctor:
- If you have stiff neck that makes it painful to turn your neck.
- Experience a sharp or stabbing pain in any area around your neck.
- General soreness or tenderness in the neck region
- Pain that starts from the neck down to the shoulders up to your arms and fingers.
- Weakness, tingling, numbness.
According to studies, around 15 percent of adults in the US suffer from chronic neck pain at least one day each year. The reasons are varied, though: some people report neck pain as a result of injuries, because of improper posture, muscle wear and tear and poor sleeping habits. While some people rest it out, apply ice, or take pain killers to numb the pain, very few people actually go and see a doctor to have their condition assessed. This often leads to extended pain, swelling, and in worse cases, surgery.
Health experts consider neck pain as a serious condition when a nerve root or the spinal cord itself could be damaged. Sometimes, pain is a symptom of a much more serious condition such as an infection or a growing mass. It affects a person’s balance, coordination, as well as bowel and bladder control. Of course, it renders a person unable to walk and move as freely as he would like.
On the other hand, pain that comes from falling down, car accidents or trauma requires emergency care. You should call an ambulance and have EMTs apply a brace around your neck to keep you from moving. This is in your best interest since any wrong or sudden movements might cause further damage than what you already have. The worst case scenario here is paralysis, and this is what medical experts are trying to avoid. The best way to do that is to immobilize the person completely while he or she is being transported to the hospital.
In some cases, it requires placing the patient under sedation too.
When a doctor assesses patient’s problems with neck pain, he needs to ask several questions, because meningismus may be at play. Here are a few of them:
Describe the pain – The doctor needs to ask the patient details about the pain he or she is experiencing. He will be asked when the pain started, if it’s intermittent, if it is concentrated on one area or if it also works its way down the fingers and arms. What else is he feeling apart from the pain? Is there nausea or other symptoms?
Work environment – Stress contributes a lot to neck pain, but so does other factors. A person who sits in front of the computer all day is as prone to experiencing neck pain as one who does manual labor or lifts heavy objects the whole day.
Are you active or sedentary – A person’s lifestyle is also a critical factor when assessing neck pain. What are your hobbies? Do you sit on the couch and watch TV the whole day?
Posture – How do you walk? How long do you spend sitting down and what kind of chair do you use at work? Sometimes, the furniture used inside offices does not follow the natural curve of the spine and back. This causes strain on the butt up to the neck. If this is the case, then the doctor advises the patient to use an ergonomic chair to help alleviate the pressure, and eventually pain on the lower back and the neck region.
Sleeping habits – It helps to know how and where a person sleeps. It’s but natural to develop pain if a person sleeps on his side the whole night. Think of staying in one position for 8 hours. If you can use a memory foam pillow and an orthopedic mattress, this would help relieve back and neck pain for the long-term.
If you are experiencing neck pain, don’t shrug it off as unimportant. Call a doctor and get an X-Ray or MRI to see what could be wrong. Your doctor is in the best position to give you advice on what treatment you can take. Some people with chronic pain need to undergo physical therapy treatments and do exercises a few times a week.s