Issues with the muscles, bones or ligaments of your neck can lead to pain, inflammation, and loss of movement. The vertebrae that range from your upper torso through the base of your skull make up the cervical section of your spine. Occasional neck discomfort is not unusual from awkward sleeping positions, poor posture, repetitive motions, sports and more. It is usually not serious and goes away in a few days or less. However, lingering or severe neck pain may mean a more severe issue and requires care from a qualified doctor like spine surgeon Dr. Charla Fischer in New York City.
Cervical pain may be chronic or acute, ranging in both duration and severity. Some of the most common complaints of patients with neck pain include:
- Stiffness in the neck often accompanied by a reduced range of motion
- Pain during movement such as twisting side to side or moving up and down
- Sharp or stabbing pain usually focused on one area of the cervical spine
- Radiating pain that travels down your head, neck, shoulders, torso and arms
- Numbness or tingling in the arms or hands
There are a number of reasons for neck discomfort. Some of these may be:
- Injury: falls, car accidents, and sports can cause cervical injuries especially to muscles and ligaments. Fractured bones or whiplash from suddenly jerking the head are also possible.
- Muscle strain: sleeping in a bad position, poor posture, exercise, or maintaining the same position for too long can all lead to strained neck muscles.
- Rheumatoid arthritis: a condition that causes joint pain and swelling and can impact the cervical spine.
- Spondylosis: degeneration of the cervical discs and narrow the space between vertebrae and lead to pain.
- Osteoporosis: fractures from weakened bones in the body that may occur in the neck.
- Herniated disc: a slipped or ruptured disc in the cervical spine.
- Heart attack: sometimes neck pain is a symptom of a heart attack. If your pain is accompanied by shortness of breath, arm pain, nausea, sweating or other symptoms, seek medical attention immediately.
- Meningitis: an emergency condition that requires immediate treatment, meningitis occurs when the tissue around the brain and spinal cord become inflamed.
Dr. Fischer will take your medical history and perform an exam. Be specific about any injuries, activities, and medications. Various medical tests may be warranted such as X-rays, CT scan, MRI scan, or bloodwork. Treatment might include physical therapy, pain medication or muscle relaxants, ice and heat therapy, corticosteroid injections, and less often surgery.
Minor cervical pain may be handled at home with over-the-counter pain medications, ice and heat therapy, rest from activities that worsen your symptoms, safe exercises and stretches, good posture, or neck massage. Some of these practices may be enough to get you past the cervical pain and back to your normal life. If not, contact Dr. Fischer for help in achieving a full recovery.