Neck Pain – Causes, Treatment & Prevention
With a growing number of individuals employed in office jobs where they sit for long hours in front of a computer, it should come as no surprise that many Americans today experience chronic neck discomfort. While this might be considered a minor nuisance to some people, if neck discomfort persists or causes nerve impingement, it can certainly have huge impacts on mobility and quality of life. If your neck pain is getting worse, make sure you sneak out medical attention. A neck specialist could be a better starting point than your family doctor, as you would be seeing someone who specializes in that area.
What are some common causes of neck pain and what can you do about it? This post will address these questions.
Common Causes of Neck Discomfort
Neck discomfort can be caused by a number of things. Some of the most common causes are addressed in the bullet points below.
Whether it is related to sitting in front of a computer or TV screen, being on a smartphone for long periods of time, or using incorrect posture while doing everyday tasks, poor posture is a leading cause of chronic neck discomfort. When your head is bent downward for extended periods of time, such as while looking at a smartphone in your hand, the muscles and ligaments in your neck need to work extra hard. When this action is repeated often, damage can occur to these ligaments and muscles. This can also apply to people who look down for long periods of time while reading, sewing, gardening, or doing any number of other tasks. Those who work in office jobs are at especially high risk, since much of their time may be spent looking down at paperwork or a keyboard or computer screen as they type.
Incorrect Sleeping Positions
Another common cause of neck discomfort is one that you may not ever give much thought to, namely the position you lie in while sleeping. If your head is angled too high or too low or it is turned in an odd way while sleeping, this can create persistent neck discomfort. You may know people who say they woke up with a “crick” in their neck, and that’s exactly what is being referred to here. Holding your head in unusual positions while awake can be just as problematic. Many people, for example, hold their phone “hands-free” between their shoulder and neck as they talk, creating an unnatural bend that places great stress on the neck muscles and supporting ligaments.
Sports injuries are yet another common cause of chronic neck discomfort. Whether you play competitive sports or you simply engage in exercises that can strain the neck does not matter. If you are physically active, there is always a chance that you could cause neck discomfort by injuring the muscles and ligaments that provide support to the neck and head.
Most often associated with work or hobbies that are engaged in for especially long periods of time, repetitive motions can overwork the muscles and ligaments of the neck and lead to chronic pain. Examples might include swimming or dancing, but it can be any side to side or up and down motion that is repeated over and over again.
Last but not least, the trauma of whiplash can cause damage and pain that can last for months or even years. This type of damage is most common the result of a rear-end collision, but can also occur from other activities. It can at times be severe enough that the soft tissues that run along the spine can be bruised or torn.
Helpful Treatments for Chronic Neck Discomfort
Now that we have addressed some of the most common causes of neck pain, you may be wondering what you can do to address the issue. The following bulleted list will focus on ways to help ease the pain, starting with things you can do yourself at home and building from there.
Take Frequent Breaks
If you are one of the multitudes of people who work at a desk or stare at a computer screen most of the day, it is of vital importance to take frequent breaks. Just getting away from your desk once an hour for a few minutes at a time can make a world of difference. Try doing some basic stretching exercises as you take a few minutes to walk around your office building before returning to your desk. Neck circles (Turning your head from side to side, then up and down, then around in a full circle) can ease the tension and keep it from building up throughout the day.
Try a New Sleeping Position
Try sleeping in a different position or on a different type of pillow to find relief. You may need to try several positions and several pillows before you find what works the best for you. There are now a variety of pillows on the market depending on whether you prefer to sleep on your back, stomach, or side, so experimentation is key here.
Self Massage, Ice and Heat Therapy
Self-massage and alternating the use of ice and heat can make your muscles feel a lot less painful. You might try applying heat to the muscles to relax them before you or a loved one uses gentle massage to relieve pain. This will make the muscles more pliable prior to massage. Alternating with ice can alleviate swelling and the discomfort it causes.
Enlist the Help of a Professional
When at home efforts like those mentioned above fail, you may want to enlist the help of physical therapy or an orthopedic specialist. Professionals in these areas will be able to give you further exercises you can do to relieve your pain and improve the condition of your muscles and ligaments. Physical therapy tends to get to the root cause of your pain rather than masking symptoms and orthopedic specialists can also ensure that there are no underlying issues that you aren’t aware of.
Between self-care, improving your posture while going about your daily activities, and seeing a professional if needed, your neck discomfort can be improved upon and managed with these helpful tips.
Neck Specialist Near Me
At Orthopedic Associates, our neck and spine doctors are skilled specialists that can relieve any aches or soreness in your neck and aid in the treatment that can regain your range of motion.