The term “a pain in the neck” is used to describe something painful because having pain in the neck can be debilitating. Everyone experiences it at one time or another, but mostly due to strain or even sleeping in a bad position. Not often is neck pain due to a serious problem. However, it is a serious problem when the pain comes with a loss of strength or numbness in the arms or hands or pain shoots down an arm. When you experience these issues, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Symptoms of a Neck Injury
The symptoms that a neck injury is causing your neck pain include:
- Pain that becomes worse by holding your head in one position for long periods, such as when working at a computer or driving a long distance
- Muscle spasms and tightness/li>
- Decreased ability to move your head/li>
- Neck pain that is accompanied by pain or numbness that shoots down the arms or legs/li>
- Tingling or weakness in the arms and legs stemming from neck pain/li>If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s time to seek medical attention so you can get to the source of the problem. There are a number of treatments, including surgery, that can fix a neck injury that is interfering with everyday life.
Causes of Neck Pain
Having the pain addressed instead of ignoring it is important since your neck supports the weight of your head. Hoping the issue resolves itself can lead to additional injuries, like muscle strain, worn joints, or nerve compression. These issues can also be causes because of too many hours at a computer, osteoarthritis, or herniated discs. A car accident is a common cause of neck conditions, like whiplash, because of the snapping motion of the head in the impact. There are also diseases, like cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and meningitis, that can cause a great deal of pain.
When you see your doctor, an MRI, CT scan, and/or x-ray will be ordered to show the cause of the pain. These tests can reveal structural problems in the neck. Electromyography can show if a nerve is pinched since it is able to look at intricate details. It can measure the speed of nerve conduction to make sure all of the nerves are functioning. Blood tests can reveal infections or inflammatory conditions that could be causing neck pain.
Neck Pain Treatment
The treatments for neck pain can include pain medications and muscle relaxants to try to take strain off the muscles. Your doctor may order physical therapy, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation to relieve pain through electrical impulses, a soft collar to immobilize the neck for a short time, or traction therapy. Steroid injections may also be required. Surgery can be a solution when the spinal cord or nerve root is compressed. In the meantime, patients can do some exercises at home at the instruction of their doctor and alternate heat and cold.