Neck pain or cervical pain is a widespread problem that many people deal with daily. Be it a 9-5 desk job, scrolling over your phone continuously, watching T.V, dehydration, or lack of sleep, the most affected body part is our neck. Neck pain can be an indication of an underlying condition. Ignoring neck pain can lead to headaches, muscle stiffness, and other serious issues.
What Is Chronic Cervical Pain?
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Our spine has vertebrae or bones separated by discs. All the nerves that go across the brain to the other parts of the body pass through the spinal cord. When the nerves come into contact with pressure from the spinal vertebrae, pain, weakness, and numbness occur.
Neck pain can be of two kinds- acute and chronic. People suffering from neck or back injuries can be afflicted with acute neck pain. In most cases, sharp neck pain does not need any medical attention and gets better within four to six weeks.
Chronic cervical pain needs medical attention and can persist for over three months. Neck pain can leave us unproductive and can interfere with our daily life. Leaving it untreated for long can affect the quality of life.
Why Should Chronic Cervical Pain Be Taken Seriously?
Neck pain usually starts with a bit of stiffness and can be cured with a simple rub-off within a day. The usual cause may be sleeping in the wrong posture. But when the pain lasts for weeks and months, along with headaches, the best thing to do is get it checked by a doctor.
Lingering neck pain can make everyday life difficult. Neck pain can spread over your shoulders and arms too. And that can be very difficult for you to bear for long.
A pinched nerve in the neck can trigger severe pain and numbness in the arms. Some injuries can also cause shooting pain in the neck.
Auto crash injuries like whiplash, where your neck gets injured because of a quick thrust, can cause neck pain. Sometimes sports collisions can cause whiplash, which results in headaches, sore soldiers, and sore necks.
Neck pains cause severe headaches when left untreated. Often cervicogenic headaches start from the neck or cervical spine. Reasons behind cervicogenic headaches are prolapsed discs, osteoarthritis, whiplash, and faulty posture.
Headaches can come accompanied by a stiff neck. In each case, you have to get treatment for the root cause, neck pain.
Some symptoms are listed below, which can be the potential underlying cause behind the stiff neck.
- Severe headache
- Fever because of an infection
- Unexplained drowsiness
- Coordination issues like difficulties in walking or writing and giddiness
- Confusion and mood swings
- Inexplicable weight loss
Potential Causes Of Neck Pain
Some degenerative conditions like osteoarthritis (with old age, the joint cartilage becomes weak) and spinal stenosis (spaces within the spine get narrowed down, leading to pressure on the nerves) can cause neck pain. In both cases, the pain usually starts with aging.
Mental stress can trigger muscle tension causing neck pain and tightness of the neck.
Whiplash or sudden sports injury of the head and neck can lead to pain and numbness affecting the nerves, ligaments, vertebral joints, discs, and muscles.
Numerous kinds of physical conditions like obesity, bad posture, and lack of core muscle strength can disturb the posture of the spinal cord leading to cervical pain.
Mass of tissues, including cysts, osteophytes, and tumours, can instigate neck pain.
Muscle strain due to arduous activities can cause stiffness and pain in the neck.
Rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, and meningitis can trigger neck pain.
Diagnosis of Cervical Pain
Your doctor will check your medical records and perform a physical examination to determine the cause of neck pain. The doctor will also check if there is any sign of past injuries which might have caused herniated disc or a whiplash.
Some standard screening to determine the cause of neck pain:
- X-rays to check the alignment of your bones. It can also help detect whether you have developed any degenerative joint disease or tumours.
- Computerized Tomography Scan (C.T. Scan) or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
- Bone Scans
- Electromyography (EMG)
How to Treat Neck Pain
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) might be recommended by your healthcare provider to relax the muscles and fast-track the healing process.
- Rehabilitative exercises
- Physical therapy includes light exercises to increase muscle strength and stretch.
- Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) uses a low-level electrical current on the skin to reduce the pain.
- Steroid injection close to the nerve roots to help with the pain and inflammation.
- Traction for pain relieve
- Surgery to restore the compressed spinal discs.
Call the doctor immediately when cervical pain is leading to dizziness, loss of bladder control, and losing coordination of legs and arms. The doctors can help pinpoint the cause of the pain and will point you in the direction of a suitable treatment.