Poor posture strains neck muscles from leaning over a computer or hunching over a workbench. Stress also is a common cause of neck pain. Neck pain, sometimes called cervicalgia, is in or around your spine beneath your head. Your neck is also known as your cervical spine.
What causes neck pain?
- Muscle strains. Overuse often triggers muscle strains like too many hours hunched over a computer or a smartphone. Even minor things, such as reading in bed, can strain neck muscles.
- Worn joints. As with other joints, neck joints tend to wear with age. In response to this wear and tear, the body often forms bone spurs that can affect joint motion and cause pain.
- Nerve compression. Herniated disks or bone spurs in the neck vertebrae can press on the nerves branching out from the spinal cord.
- Rear-end auto collisions often result in whiplash injury. This occurs when the head jerks backward and then forward, straining the neck’s soft tissues.
- Certain diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, meningitis, or cancer, can cause neck pain.
Neck pain or stiffness is usually due to poor posture, overuse, or an awkward position, but sometimes, it can indicate a severe injury like whiplash or an illness. However, symptoms can range in severity and duration.
What are the symptoms of neck pain?
- Stiff neck. People with neck pain often feel as though their neck is “stiff” or “stuck.” Neck pain can sometimes cause a decreased range of motion.
- Sharp pain. Neck pain may feel like sharp or “stabbing” pain localized to one area.
- Pain when moving. Neck pain is often exacerbated by moving, twisting, or extending your cervical spine from side to side or up and down.
- Radiating pain or numbness. The neck pain may radiate to the head, trunk, shoulder, and arms. If the pain involves the compression of a nerve, you may feel numbness, tingling, or weakness in either of your arms or hands. Neck pain from a pinched nerve may feel like a burning or sharp pain that starts at the neck and travels down the arm.
- Pain that starts in your neck may also produce a cervicogenic headache. Neck pain with a headache may also be a migraine headache symptom.
- Pain when palpated. Neck pain may increase if your cervical spine is palpated (physically examined).
There are other remedies to relieve neck pain besides taking pain relievers.
How to find neck pain relief at home?
- Apply ice for the first few days. After that, apply heat with a heating pad, hot compress, or a hot shower.
- Take a few days off from sports, activities aggravating your symptoms, and heavy lifting. When you resume regular exercise, do so slowly as your symptoms ease.
- Exercise your neck every day. Slowly stretch your head in side-to-side and up-and-down motions.
- Practice good posture.
- Avoid cradling the phone between your neck and shoulder.
- Change your position often. Don’t stand or sit in one place for too long.
- Get a gentle neck massage.
- Use a unique neck pillow for sleeping.
When to see a doctor?
Consult an Intercare doctor if the neck pain worsens despite home remedies; the pain is severe and is associated with the following:
- Traumatic injury. Examples include car collisions, diving accidents, or falls.
- Muscle weakness. An arm or leg weakness or trouble walking may indicate a more serious problem.
- If you have severe neck pain with a high fever, you might have meningitis, an infection of the membrane covering your spinal cord and brain.