WEDNESDAY, June 21, 2023 (HealthDay News) -- The phrase "pain in the neck" is a tongue-in-cheek way to describe annoying situations or people that test our patience, but for those who experience genuine neck pain, it's no laughing matter.
Neck pain can be a debilitating condition that affects daily life and leaves sufferers longing for relief. This article will explore some practical strategies to alleviate neck pain and provide self-care tips, neck pain exercises and other helpful treatments to try.
Neck pain causes
Neck pain, also called cervicalgia, is the discomfort experienced in or around the spinal area beneath the head. The Cleveland Clinic says neck pain is common, affecting 10% to 20% of adults.
And it should come as no surprise that your neck, medically known as the cervical spine, plays a crucial role in supporting the weight of your head and facilitating its movements. But various injuries and medical conditions can give rise to neck pain. Left untreated, neck pain can become a persistent hindrance, interfering with your daily activities and diminishing your overall quality of life.
In an article, Dr. Zacharia Isaac, medical director of the Comprehensive Spine Care Center at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston and director of interventional physical medicine and rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School, writes that neck pain usually builds over time.
“Neck pain rarely starts overnight," he writes in a school web page. "It usually evolves over time. And it may be spurred by arthritis or degenerative disc disease, and accentuated by poor posture, declining muscle strength, stress, and even a lack of sleep.”
Fortunately, most neck pain causes are not severe and can be effectively addressed through conservative treatments. The Mayo Clinic provides this list of common neck pain causes:
Johns Hopkins Medicine notes that pain that may come on quickly or slowly and that lingers for weeks, three months or more is considered chronic. Chronic neck pain is less common than acute pain.
Neck pain symptoms
Recognizing and understanding the symptoms associated with neck pain is essential for effective diagnosis and treatment. By being aware of these telltale signs, you can gain insights into the nature of your discomfort and take appropriate measures to alleviate it.
The American Association of Neurological Surgeons says that in addition to neck pain, pressure on a nerve root or the spinal cord by a herniated disc or a bone spur may result in the following neck pain symptoms:
Neck pain on the left side commonly stems from non-serious factors like muscle strain due to an uncomfortable sleeping position or inflammation. Occasionally, there may be serious underlying causes such as tumors or arthritis.
Similarly, pain on the right side of the neck is typically attributed to causes like muscle strain, poor sleeping posture or improper alignment. If the pain persists for an extended period, it is advisable to consult a doctor for guidance on medical treatments and potential home remedies.
Overall, neck pain is not something to ignore. Keck Medicine of USC says headache, a fever and a stiff neck may be signs of meningitis.
How to get rid of neck pain
Harvard Health offers these six strategies for neck pain relief:
Exercises can also help you manage neck pain. Scotland's NHS Inform recommends movement and stretching exercises. Performing neck stretches involves simple and controlled movements. One option for a movement exercise is to start by facing forward and gradually turn your head to one side until you feel a gentle stretch on the opposite side of your neck. Hold for two seconds, then return to the starting position before repeating the stretch on the other side.
The Mayo Clinic also recommends pain relievers for acute neck pain relief. Pain relievers might include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) or naproxen sodium (Aleve) or acetaminophen (Tylenol, others). Be sure to follow all dosage recommendations and take only as directed.
Neck pain relief is possible
Neck muscle pain can be a disruptive force, affecting daily activities and overall well-being. Understanding the causes, symptoms and effective treatments makes it possible to seek relief. Whether through self-care practices, targeted exercises or medical interventions, the path to a pain-free neck is within reach.