NECK PAIN – WHEN TO WORRY AND WHEN NOT TO…?
Neck pain is a common complaint, not only of elderly but also to the young people. Neck muscles can be strained from poor posture — whether it’s leaning over your computer or hunching over your workbench. Though it is a common problem, rarely, it could be a symptom of a more serious disease. Seek medical care if your neck pain is accompanied by numbness or loss of strength in your arms or hands or if you have shooting pain into your shoulder or down your arm.
What are the symptoms related to this …?
Signs and symptoms include:
- Pain that’s often worsened by holding your head in one place for long periods, such as when driving or working at a computer / Smart phone.
- Muscle tightness and spasms
- Decreased ability to move your head
- Numbness or loss of strength in your arms or hands
- Shooting pain into your shoulder or down your arm.
- Occipital Headache
When to see a doctor…?
Most neck pain improves gradually with rest. If not, see your doctor.
Contact a doctor if your neck pain:
- If pain is severe
- Persists for several days without relief
- Spreads down arms or legs
- Is accompanied by headache, numbness, weakness or tingling
Your neck is flexible and supports the weight of your head, so it can be vulnerable to injuries and conditions that cause pain and restrict motion. Neck pain causes include:
- Muscle strains.
- Worn joints.
- Nerve compression.
- Diseases. Certain diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, meningitis or cancer, can cause neck pain.
How to Prevent Neck strain and injury..?
Most neck pain is associated with poor posture combined with age-related wear and tear. To help prevent neck pain, keep your head centered over your spine. Some simple changes in your daily routine may help. Consider trying to:
- Use good posture.
- Take frequent breaks.
- Adjust your desk, chair and computer
- Avoid tucking the phone
- If you smoke, quit.
- Avoid carrying heavy bags with straps over your shoulder.
- Sleep in a good position.
How to diagnose the problem?
Your doctor might order imaging tests to get a better picture of the cause of your neck pain. Examples include:
- CT scan.
- Electromyography (EMG). If your doctor suspects your neck pain might be related to a pinched nerve, he or she might suggest an EMG. It involves inserting fine needles through your skin into a muscle and performing tests to measure the speed of nerve conduction to determine whether specific nerves are functioning properly.
What Are the Treatment Options Available..?
The most common types of mild to moderate neck pain usually respond well to rest / self-care and posture adjustment within one or two weeks. If neck pain persists, your doctor might recommend other treatments.
Your doctor might prescribe stronger pain medicine than what you can get over-the-counter, as well as muscle relaxants and tricyclic antidepressants for pain relief.
- Physical therapy. A physical therapist can teach you correct posture, alignment and neck-strengthening exercises, and can use heat, ice, electrical stimulation and other measures to help ease your pain and prevent a recurrence.
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). Electrodes placed on your skin near the painful areas deliver tiny electrical impulses that may relieve pain.
- Traction. Traction uses weights, pulleys or an air bladder to gently stretch your neck. This therapy, under supervision of a medical professional and physical therapist, may provide relief of some neck pain, especially pain related to nerve root irritation.
- Short-term immobilization. A soft collar that supports your neck may help relieve pain by taking pressure off the structures in your neck. However, if used for more than three hours at a time or for more than one to two weeks, a collar might do more harm than good.
Surgical and other procedures
- Steroid injections. Your doctor might inject corticosteroid medications near the nerve roots, into the small facet joints in the bones of the cervical spine or into the muscles in your neck to help with pain. Numbing medications, such as lidocaine, also can be injected to relieve your neck pain.
- Surgery. Sometimes, Surgery might be an option for relieving nerve root or spinal cord compression. .ACDF (anterior cervical discectomy and fusion) which involves removal of bulging disc. Artificial Disc Replacement may sometimes be needed which will restore the mobility.