Occasional neck pain is part of life for most people. Often a result of bad posture, sleeping wrong, or overuse, most of the time it goes away in a few days. In other cases, like an injury or serious illness, it is best to seek medical care from an experienced physician like spine surgeon Dr. Charla Fischer in New York City. If your neck pain lasts for more than a week and is accompanied by other symptoms, schedule an appointment with a doctor.
Your cervical spine, or neck, is the part of your spine extending from your skull to the upper torso. It consists of bones called vertebrae with discs between them to provide cushion. Bones, muscles, and ligaments work as a team to support and move your neck and head. When some part is damaged, neck pain or other symptoms may arise. Some common causes of cervical spine pain include:
- Muscle strain: this may result from bad posture, sleeping wrong, not changing positions often enough, or strain during exercise.
- Injury: car accidents, falls, and sports are common culprits for neck injuries. Whiplash is a popular term for neck injuries related to suddenly jerking the head.
- Meningitis: a serious illness in which the tissue around the brain and spinal cord becomes inflamed. This condition requires emergency medical treatment.
- Osteoporosis: bones that are weakened and subject to small fractures.
- Rheumatoid arthritis: an illness characterized by pain, joint swelling, and bone spurs.
- Herniated disc: cervical discs can protrude and pressure the surrounding nerves or spinal cord.
- Spinal stenosis: the spinal cord may abnormally narrow and place pressure on the nerves or spinal cord.
- Fibromyalgia: a condition that can lead to muscle pain all over the body, including the neck.
- Other issues: less often, neck pain can be attributed to things like infections, tumors, or congenital defects.
Most neck pain, especially minor, can first be treated at home. Applying ice or heat, taking over-the-counter pain relievers or anti-inflammatories, practicing good posture, performing gentle stretching exercises, getting a massage, and laying off from activities that hurt the neck are all examples of home care.
If your symptoms persist longer than a week, see a qualified specialist like Dr. Fischer to make sure nothing is seriously wrong and to get the best treatment plan. The physician will take your medical history, perform a physical examination, and learn about your symptoms. Make sure you give the doctor all relevant information like care you have tried at home and any recent activities that may have caused injury. Sometimes testing like X-rays, CT scans, MRI, or electromyography can be helpful for diagnosis and proper treatment.
After diagnosis of the cause for your neck pain, Dr. Fischer may suggest a combination of treatments like physical therapy, prescription medications, ice and heat therapy, steroid injections, neck brace, or even surgery in severe cases. An experienced physician is able to determine your neck issues and provide treatment so that you can resume your normal activities without pain.