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Complete Guide To Neck Strain And Pain

Our neck consists of vertebrae that span from the skull to the upper torso. There are also cervical discs to offset the shock between bones. The bones, ligaments, and muscles surrounding your neck assist the head by aiding motility. Any condition, disorder, or swelling can result in neck ache or paralysis.

Neck pain is simply an injury, swelling, or discomfort that occurs in the area around the neck. It is often a result of injuries from sporting activities, falls, or accidents. 

Many people suffer from neck discomfort once in a while. More often than not, this is caused by bad posture and overuse. Often, neck injuries are not a severe case and can be soothed in a few days. However, in some cases, it can be a prelude to a chronic disorder or injury and might need the attention of a medical expert. 

If you have discomfort in your neck that persists for over a week, or you notice other symptoms, endeavor to see a medical expert immediately.

Causes of Neck pain

Injuries or discomfort around the neck can be caused by numerous reasons, some of them are listed below:

Muscle strains

This is caused by activities and usual behavioral patterns such as; bad posture, sitting at a desk on a single spot without adjusting your position, sleeping while placing your neck in a harmful posture, or intermittently heaving or twitching your neck while working out.

Injury

The neck is quite susceptible to wounds, most especially those that occur as a result of falls, motor accidents, and sporting activities, whereby the muscles and ligaments around the neck are required to stretch outside their normal range. If the bones of the neck (cervical vertebrae) are damaged or suffering from fractures, the spinal cord also suffers damage. 

Heart Attack

Discomfort around the neck can also be an indication of a heart attack, it also comes with other symptoms such as sweating, shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, arm or jaw pain. If other symptoms related to heart attack appear, kindly visit a close-by hospital for a check-up. 

Meningitis is a toxin or infection that encircles the brain and spinal cord

Meningitis cases and symptoms are fever and headache with a stiff neck which brings discomfort to the affected. And also advisable to visit the hospital because it’s very dangerous to the body. 

Additional causes of Neck Pain include:

Rheumatoid Arthritis

This often causes pain, inflammation, or discomfort around the joints and bone spurs. When these happen in the areas around the neck, it often results in neck pain.

Headaches

There are different forms of headaches, and each one has an ailment tagged with it. Migraine often occurs due to stress or overthinking. Tension headache is a type of headache that causes neck pain. Its symptoms include; fair to chronic none-throbbing pain in the forehead and the neck. It usually occurs when there is an influx of negative emotions like stress, tension, and fear, thus making the muscles of the scalp and neck tense.

Pinched Nerve

A pinched nerve can cause so many problems in your body. A pinched nerve in the cervical spine can result in a stiff and immobile neck which can result in discomfort and feelings of numbness around the shoulders and arms. 

Sleeping position

Sleeping in a weird or awkward posture can result in discomfort in the neck. The type of pillow you use can also result in neck pain, stiff neck, sore neck.

Posture

Bending over a computer screen or slumping over a couch can often result in neck pain and discomfort in the neck areas.

Common Neck Injuries

Some of the common neck injuries include:

Neck sprain or strain

A sprain occurs when the ligaments in the neck are ripped. A strain simply means a tear in the muscle or tendon. This can be as a result of unexpected injuries that happen while undergoing physical training or caused by a car accident.

Stiff muscles and tendons

Otherwise known as a “crick in the neck” stiffness of the neck can be as a result of awkward movements or if the neck has been kept in a single position for a long duration (such as sleeping overnight).

Herniated disc

A herniated disc happens when there is a tear in the spinal disc and the delicate, jellylike innards leaks seep it drips out of the disc. Often, it is a result of wear and tear, but a herniated disc can occur when you fall. 

Pinched nerve

Fragments of bone, tissue, or tendons can nudge against the surrounding nerves which often results in sharp feelings of pain. This often occurs due to muscle strain or sprain.

Fractured cervical spinal

While this is a rare case, a fractured cervical spinal also known as a broken neck is a severe condition that often needs the attention of a medical expert.

Car Accidents

When your car is hit from behind by another car, the speed at which your head is thrown forward and backward can cause harm to muscles, ligaments, and the nerves in the neck.

Athletic injury or fall

Football players are more susceptible to neck injuries, but oftentimes, an accident that causes damages to the muscles, tendons, and ligaments of the neck can occur to anyone.

Injuries from overuse, stress, and bad posture

If you are involved in monotonous activities that require the use of the upper body and the arms, you may develop a stiff neck. Sitting in front of a computer or a laptop screen for a long time without changing positions can also result in neck pain.

Arthritis

With time, the cartilage that protects the bones in the neck would get worn, resulting in pain.

Poor sleeping posture

Sleeping with your neck placed at an odd angle (especially when you lie on your stomach) often results in discomforts around the neck. Pillows that are too flat or inflated would leave you with aches when you wake up.

Illnesses

Some chronic disorders such as meningitis and cancer can also result in neck pain. 

Symptoms of Neck Pain

Oftentimes, the symptoms of neck pain would manifest depending on the severity of your injury, however, the commonly seen symptoms include:

  • Difficulty in moving the neck.
  • Intermittent headaches.
  • Occasional muscle spasms in the areas surrounding the neck and shoulders.
  • Soreness in the neck.
  • Pain and paralysis that spreads to the back and arms.
  • Feeling of numbness in the neck.
  • Stiffness in the neck is escorted by feverish feelings, headaches, and sometimes nausea.

Neck Pain Relief

Below are some ways to relieve yourself from neck pain if the pain or stiffness is minor and not a severe case. 

  1. Use an ice pack for the first few days of sensing the symptoms.
  2. Endeavor to use OTC (over-the-counter) pain relievers. A good example of them is; ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
  3. Take a break from your usual daily training or activities as they could increase the severity of your symptoms.
  4. Make sure you do exercises that specifically focus on the neck every day.
  5. Take a natural supplement.
  6. Always maintain good posture. 
  7. Avoid putting your phone between your neck and shoulder.
  8. A neck massage once in a while to release tense muscles will work wonders.
  9. Adjust your position once in a while. Don’t stay in the same position for a long period.

Neck Pain Stretches

A light stretching exercise might be all you require to relieve your neck pain or prevent it altogether. Below are some stretching exercises to perform to ease neck pain:

Side Rotation

This can be done while seated or on your feet.

  • Maintain your head squarely on your shoulders, and straighten your back.
  • With slow movements, shift your neck to your right until you can feel the stretch in that part of your neck and shoulder.
  • Maintain the stretch for 15-30 seconds, then slowly move your head to its previous position. 
  • Repeat this exercise for the left side.
  • Do this up to 10 times daily.

Forward and Backward Tilt

You can perform this exercise either on your seat or on your feet.

  • Keep your head squarely on your shoulders and make sure your back is straight.
  • Lower your chin in the direction of your chest and maintain the position for 15-30 seconds. Stay calm, and lift your head back up in slow movements.
  • Raise your chin to face the ceiling while making sure the base of your skull touches your back. Maintain this position for 10 seconds, then revert to the starting point.
  • Repeat the action several times and do it every day.

Shoulder Roll

This exercise is best done while on your feet

  • Lift your shoulders straight up and roll them in a circular motion while going forward. Do this six times.
  • Go back to the starting point and roll them in another circular motion, facing backward this time around.

Side Tilt

This exercise should be done while standing, maintaining your feet hip-width apart. 

  • Softly incline your head in the direction of your right shoulder, and try to touch it with your ear. Stop when you feel the stretch and don’t lift your shoulders.
  • Maintain the stretch for 5-10 seconds, then go back to the starting point.
  • Repeat the action on your left side. You can repeat it several times (at least up to 10 times).
  • If you want an extra stretch, place your hand that is in the same direction as your titled head on top of your head, and press it softly with your fingers.

Neck Pain Treatment

Below are a few ways of treating neck pain:

Acupuncture

This treatment employs the use of a thin needle placed at certain points of the body to stabilize the energy flow (Qi) through the pathways of the body (meridians). Treating neck pain with acupuncture is not a new practice as it has been known to help relieve neck pain or disorders in the muscles. A normal session of acupuncture could last for at least 15-30 minutes. It is advisable to play soft, soothing music to put the patient in a relaxed mood. Depending on the type of method to be used for treatment, the patient might be required to lie on the tummy, back, or sit in a reclined position.

Chiropractic Treatment (Use of Chiropractors)

Chiropractic treatment is a pseudoscientific alternate way treatment used to correct mechanical illnesses of the musculoskeletal system, particularly in the areas of the spine. The main aim of chiropractors is to ease pain and enhance bodily functions, it doesn’t advocate the use of drugs or surgery. Instead, they modify the spine or other parts of the body to set them in the right position.

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy or exercises could also help to relieve neck pain and discomfort. Stretching, strengthening, and straightening exercises help to reduce neck pain. Application of cold and heat therapy, deep tissue massage, electrical impulses, and ultrasound could be used before the exercise is started. While undergoing physical therapy, you will perform numerous workouts to stretch the neck and relieve the muscles. Some good examples of physical therapy include; ice and heat therapy, use of neck collar, traction, prescription of pain medication, corticosteroid injections, use of antibiotics in case of an infection, muscle relaxants, and stretching, strengthening, and straightening exercises.

Personal Trainer

Seeking the aid of a personal trainer could also help in treating neck disorders and discomforts. Your trainer would guide you through your physical activity and also recommend some exercises to perform to alleviate your neck pain.

Exercises for Neck Pain

Exercises can go a long way in relieving the pains you feel in your neck, at the same time, strengthen your muscles and help you in your journey of recovery.

Below are some exercises that target the neck and shoulders:

Stretching

Stretching assists in restoring the mobility and flexibility of the muscles. It also enhances blood flow and helps in pain reduction.

Neck side bend and rotation

You can decide to stand or sit before performing this exercise. Facing forward, shift your neck to your right, you should feel the stretch from your neck to your trap muscles. Hold this position for about 10 seconds and slowly move your head in the other direction (your left) and maintain the position for another 10 seconds. Complete the exercise by returning to the point you started. Repeat 2 or 3 times.

Wall Angels

This exercise is good for the neck, shoulders, and upper back. Stand with your back pressed against a wall, then stretch your arms out to create a “T” pattern on the wall, then slightly curve your elbows in a 90-degree position. In a slow movement, move your hands up and down in a “snow angel” action, while making sure they remain pressed against the wall. When your fingers touch the top of your head, return to the beginning point. Repeat 2 or 3 times.

Scapula squeeze

Placing your arms by your side, compress your shoulder blades. Maintain this position for 10 seconds and relax your shoulders. Repeat about 3-5 times. This exercise is good for the shoulders. 

Butterfly

Put your arms on opposite shoulders and make sure your elbows make contact. Maintain this position for 5 seconds and relax. Repeat every day for 5 times. 

Conclusion

Neck pain also called cervicalgia is a common disorder felt in areas around the neck. While it might make you feel uncomfortable, it is nothing to worry about and won’t be a problem if you follow the steps listed above. If you feel discomfort, pain, stiffness, soreness, and numbness around your neck, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor or a skilled medical expert.

You can also attempt to treat it at home through the use of ice and heat therapy or performing stretching exercises to reduce the pain and discomfort, but if the symptoms persist, go to a hospital immediately.

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