It came as quite a surprise to learn that neck pain in women and office workers is more prevalent, with office workers apparently more at risk. Chronic neck pain has side effects such as anxiety, depression and fatigue which obviously prevent employees form delivering to their full potential; at a cost to the employer naturally. As such, there now is a need to educate people in general, and workers particularly, about the causes, treatment and prevention of neck pain.
When severe or permanent neck pain is the order of the day, the individual needs to seek urgent medical advice for proper examination; it probably is much more serious than neck pain caused by stress or bad posture. When stress or bad posture is the culprit, there are neck pain relief exercises; pain due to spinal injuries or disorders needs medical attention.
Neck pain causes:
Diseases: Neck pain is caused by a variety of conditions; most dangerous is a disease such as meningitis. It usually starts with neck pain and is an infection which causes inflammation of the membranes which cover the brain and spinal cord. It causes severe headache and fever. Other diseases are cancer and rheumatoid arthritis.
Muscle strains: As mentioned, bad posture is one of the minor causes of neck pain. There is too much strain on the muscles. Neck pain from computer use as we sit in the same position for extended periods of time without moving our neck, sleeping in a position where the pillow cannot give sufficient support for the neck and not standing up straight, but rather with a bent back, are common reasons. Here I particularly think of low counters in shops where people tend to lean on their elbows and lift their heads to look around or tend to customers rather than straightening their backs.
Injuries: What most people consider minor occurrences can actually cause injuries accompanied by severe pain caused by inflammation in the muscles. Coming to mind are those instances where a) we slip and fall a short distance and b) whiplash injuries which typically occur when you sit in a car involved in a rear-end collision. The soft tissue in the neck is stretched when the head is jerked backward and then forward.
Nerve compression: Neck pain from bone spurs: herniated disks in the vertebrae of the neck take up too much space; press on the nerves of the spinal cord and cause what is known as nerve compression.
Joints: All joints in the body undergo wear and tear; those in the neck are no exception unfortunately. A condition known as osteoarthritis develop with worn joints, causing neck pain.
Neck pain symptoms:
Neck pain typically displays some of the following symptoms:
- Knots or stiffness in the neck
- Severe pain which may spread to your arms, shoulders or upper back
- Neck pain causing headaches is quite common
- Inability to move or turn your head and neck with ease
- When pain shoots down your arm, causing a tingling feeling, numbness or weakness it may be a sign that there is pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots. Pressure is from bone spurs which is the result of degeneration of the discs of the spine.
How is neck pain diagnosed?
When severe neck pain demands medical intervention, your medical professional will ask questions pertaining to any activities, ailments or injuries which may be the cause of the neck pain you’re experiencing.
A physical examination will be conducted in order to determine with how much ease you can move your neck; also to look for signs of weakness, tingling and numbness in your hands and arms.
If there is no improvement in the symptoms after a few weeks, tests such as X-rays, MRI scans, or CT scans may be conducted. These tests show the muscles and tissues in the neck; making a proper diagnosis possible.
How to cure neck pain:
Neck pain treatment at home can effectively get rid of neck pain due to bad posture. Try some of these neck pain relief home remedies:
- Take the load off your neck – lie down so the muscles can recover
- Put crushed ice in a plastic bag and put bag in a pillowcase. Apply this to your neck for about 15 minutes which allows the ice to numb the pain and reduce inflammation
- Bring relaxation to stiff muscles by administering some heat to your neck. Use a hot water bottle, heat pads, stand in a hot shower or wrap a wet, warm towel round your neck. Be careful to not overdo the treatment, too much heat may cause more pain
- Anxiousness (emotional stress) cause muscle stiffness. Identify the causes of stress in your life, i.e. driving to work, getting kids ready for school, meetings at the office, etc. Manage stress through relaxation techniques such as abdominal breathing and progressive relaxation
- Massage the muscles with a neck pain cream such as Rub on Relief, Bengay or Tiger Balm Neck & Shoulder Rub Pain Relieving Cream. Apply it with gentle pressure and in circular movements as indicated on the packaging
- For some the preferred neck pain remedy is over the counter (OTC) neck pain medication. These typically include Tylenol (reduces pain), anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin (not to be given to people under 20 years of age), Advil and Aleve, etc. For severe neck pain and spasms you may need prescription drugs such as muscle relaxants (Valium, Flexeril and Soma), for short-term acute neck pain strong pain killers (Vicodin, Lortab, Percodan and Percocet) and anti-depressants (Silenor and Zonalon) for chronic (long-lasting) neck pain.
- Improve your posture. If your job is a pain in the neck because you sit behind a desk, working on a computer, get moving. Walk around for a minute or so every hour, and get into the habit of sitting and standing up straight at all times.
- Sleep on a firm mattress and use feather or crushed-foam pillows. Invest in a cervical pillow for neck pain relief.
- Herbs are regarded neck pain natural remedies which aid in relaxing and strengthening muscles; increasing the flow of blood. Herbal remedies are generally available in pill form, as liquid extracts and creams. Most popular herbs used include Kudzu which reduces inflammation in muscles
- Menthol increases blood circulation, Devil’s Claw (pill and powder forms) is a slow pain reliever
- St John’s Wort is very popular for fast pain relief generally and Lavender Oil is used as a massage for pain relief.
Neck pain prevention:
Many of the preventative measures are also ways in which to cure neck pain.
Do not ever slouch in a chair. Whenever you sit, ensure your lower back is well supported, shoulders are relaxed and both feet are flat on the floor. Take short breaks every hour to get the blood circulating and prevent muscles form getting stiff.
When working on a computer, make sure the top of the monitor is at eye level.
When you use the phone, hold it in your hand, or use the headset or speaker facility. Cradling the phone on your shoulder is a surefire way to hurt your neck.
When driving, adjust the seat such that it supports your head and lower back. Arms should be in a slightly bent and comfortable position on the steering wheel while driving.
When you lift stuff, bend your knees. Do not use your back.
Avoid sleeping on your stomach with your neck bent or twisted.
When you read in bed, make sure the book is well enough supported so you do not have to use your arms to hold it up (as can be seen in the pictures below, many people seem to not follow this simple rule)!
Do neck exercises. Stretch neck muscles by slowly turning your head to the right as far as possible without hurting yourself and hold for a few seconds. Turn head back to the front, now turn your head to your left side and hold for a few seconds. Repeat these movements 5 times per session, 3 times daily.
Keep your body healthy and your weight down.