Neck pain is less common than pain in the lower back, but it is still a frequently occurring condition. Very often, people experience pain in their arms, which is actually radiating pain that comes from a problem with the neck. Luckily, most of the time, these problems will go over time. Even those that are more problematic can generally be treated with medicine, and surgery is almost never required. There are two main types of neck pains, being acute and chronic.
Acute Neck Pain
Acute neck pain generally happens because there is some sort of dysfunction of the joint, because there is an injury to the tendons or ligaments or because of muscle strain. Usually, this happens after some sort of sudden force is put onto the neck, for instance when you fall or are in a car accident. It also often occurs after straining. Straining is actually one of the most common neck pain causes and can be caused by such things as sleeping in the wrong position, or cradling a phone for too long. More often than not, it will take just a few days for this problem to go again.
The best neck pain relief here includes:
• Cold or hot packs (use ice before heat for 48 hours if the pain is truly acute)
• Pain killers
• Manipulation by an osteopath, chiropractor or physical therapist
• A pillow for neck pain, which is molded in such a way that you are in the perfect spinal position
If the pain continues, or if it is accompanied by numbness or tingling, it is important to seek medical assistance to prevent it from becoming chronic.
Chronic Neck Pain
Chronic neck pain is most often caused by a diagnosable medical condition. Treatment, as such, depends on the reason for the injury. The most commonly found reasons include:
• Herniated discs or other spinal problems. An accompanying symptom is often tingling and pain down to the fingers. In terms of treatment, medication and physical therapy is usually recommended. If the patient is unresponsive to this for more than 12 weeks, surgery may be an option.
• Foraminal stenosis, which is when the opening of the roots of the nerves becomes narrower. This type of pain becomes worse over time (this can take years) and usually flares up after certain strenuous activities. This condition is usually described as a pinched or trapped nerve, and surgery may be needed.
• Thoracic outlet syndrome, which usually causes arm weakness, chest pain and numbness down to the hand. This is caused by the pectoral muscle shortening, thereby pinching the nerves to the neck. Medication and chiropractic treatment is usually successful in this situation. Relief for neck pain can also be gain through physical exercise specifically designed to lengthen the pectoral muscle. Surgery is rarely needed in this case.
• Cervical stenosis, which often makes it difficult to properly coordinate arms and legs. People with this condition have problems with their fine motor skills and regularly experience shooting pains. This is caused by compression on the spinal cord and can be treated non-surgically for quite some time, although surgery is almost always required at some point.
It is important to recognize the symptoms of nerve damage, which is usually expresses as loss of feeling or weakness, particularly in the arms and hands. If you suspect this is the case, you must seek medical attention. If the pain becomes so severe that you experience flu-like symptoms, vomiting, loss of appetite and so on, this could be indicative of a spinal tumor. With severe neck pain, it is always important to seek medical attention.
Neck pain prevention is mainly about making sure you do not strain the neck. Most other cases of pain are caused accidentally or through ageing or congenital conditions. As such, there is very little that can be done to prevent it.