Abnormalities or injury in ligaments, bones and muscles of the neck can cause neck pain. Occasional neck pain is often experienced by most people. This may be due to poor posture or overuse. Usually the neck pain subsides itself in a few days. If it persists or progresses after a few days, the patient should seek medical attention.
The movement of the neck is inimitable. A person can rotate the neck in various directions such as 120° inclined to either shoulder, 180° sideways rotation and 90° backward and forward motion. The movement of the neck depends on its compositions. The neck comprises seven vertebrae, 32 muscles and tendons and ligaments attached to them. Each vertebrae is protected by an intervertebral disc and connected by facet joints.
Multiple causes can lead to neck pain. Some of the causes and risk factors include:
There can be multiple types of neck pains including the following:
When pain originates from the nerves of the cervical spine. It can be due to slipped disc when the disc puts extra pressure on the closest nerve or due to nerve compression.
In this type, the pain arises from the spine and muscles, ligaments, bones or cartilages attached to it. It can be due to poor posture, stress, neck strain etc.
Due to spinal cord injury, stroke, multiple sclerosis, or CNS injury.
For an accurate diagnosis, the doctor will conduct a neurological exam. The doctor tests muscle strength, pain distribution, motor and sensory challenges, reflexes etc.
If indicated, an electromyography (EMG) is performed to test nerve signalling. In EMG, the signals to and the brain and nerves are checked. If signals are taking time, it means there is nerve damage.
A X-ray can be performed to confirm the osteoarthritis, osteophyte formation, narrowing of disc shape and fracture.
Therapies that are commonly tried are:
It helps the patient to maintain the correct posture. A therapist teaches about neck strengthening exercises and alignment.
Tiny electrical impulses generated from electrodes are delivered on the area to subside the pain.
Supporting a neck collar to aid the neck and decrease neck pain. This removes extra pressure from the neck.
This decreases the pain, muscle tension or inflammation in the neck.
This boosts the core strength, helps to maintain posture and balance. It also helps in decreasing stress, which can also be a cause of severe neck pain.
A doctor can administer corticosteroid injections close to nerve roots. These are injected in the muscles of the neck or small facets in the bones of the cervical spine. Lidocaine can be administered to numb the pain.
Surgery is rarely an option for neck pain. If the pain is due to spinal cord compression or emerging from the nerve root, in such cases, the doctor may seek surgery.
Most people take four to six weeks to recover from neck pain completely. However, the recovery may depend on and vary by individuals.
Yes, neck pain often leads to headaches.
In the following cases, consider going to a hospital:
The best doctor to consult is a spine specialist neurosurgeon or orthopaedic surgeon.
Muscle ache, muscle spasm, shooting pains, numbness in the leg, stiffness in the back and neck are the various causes of back and neck pain.
A neck brace is a temporary device to assist the neck in relieving neck pain and heal faster. It’s important to wear the neck brace properly and as advised by the doctor to get the utmost benefit. A good neck brace may sometimes limit the neck movements but never causes any kind of discomfort to the patient. It is important to inform the doctor if the patient feels any irritation or discomfort from neck brace.