Chronic neck pain affects the lives of many adults and seniors, and it is the fourth leading cause of disability globally. In fact, it has a prevalence rate that exceeds 30% annually in the US. In addition, approximately 50% of individuals will experience a degree of chronic neck pain at some point in life. And 20% to 70% among adults, will experience neck pain which will affect their activities.
Neck pain can be acute or chronic and is usually the result of a nerve injury. Fortunately, neck pain doesn’t indicate a serious problem and can be relieved in a few days. Read on to discover the symptoms, causes, treatments, and prevention of chronic neck pain.
What is Neck Pain?
Neck pain is the pain or stiffness in or around the cervical spine found underneath your head. It is a common symptom of medical conditions and many different injuries.
Symptoms of Neck Pain
- Stabbing or burning pain
- A persistent ache
- Stiff neck
- Numbness or tingling in the arms
- Increased sensitivity to mild pressure
What Causes Neck Pain?
Your neck consists of ligaments, bones, and muscles, and any abnormalities, inflammation, or injury can cause neck pain. However, about 10% of neck pain is associated with illnesses such as rheumatoid arthritis, tumors, polymyalgia rheumatica, pinched nerve, herniated disc, and infections. The pain occurs due to many different injuries and medical issues. Some of the common causes of neck pain include:
- Neck Injury: Car accidents, contact sports, and falls cause severe neck injuries. The trauma caused forces your neck or head to suddenly move in the opposite direction (whiplash), leading to soreness or pain.
- Aging: Degenerative issues like narrowing of the spine spaces (spinal stenosis) and tear and wear of the joint cartilage (osteoarthritis) cause neck pain as you age.
- Physical Muscle Strain: Engaging in repetitive tasks or strenuous activities daily causes neck muscles to strain, resulting in pain.
- Mental stress: Tightening neck muscles when tense causes neck pain.
- Poor Posture: Sitting for prolonged periods causes neck muscles and tissues to tighten up, causing severe pain.
What Treatments are Available?
Chronic neck pain treatments vary depending on the cause. They help ease pain and enhance function. Some of the common treatments for severe pain include:
- Pain Medication: Over-the-counter pain medications like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and aspirin help ease the pain. Your doctor will recommend prescription pain medications like:
- Muscle relaxers
- Anti-inflammatory medicines
- Opioid analgesics
- Physical Therapy: Neck strengthening and stretching exercises like side-to-side and backward and forward bends help ease severe pain. Once your doctor diagnoses your pain level, they may advise you to see a physical therapist for stretching exercises.
- Transcutaneous Electric Nerve Stimulation (TENS): This treatment involves releasing mild electric pulses under the affected area’s skin. It aims to block the nerve endings in the region from sending pain signals to your brain, easing pain.
- Topical Anesthetic Cream: Products containing camphor or menthol temporarily relieve joint and muscle pain.
- Injections: Your doctor injects pain medications into the neck joints or muscles to relieve severe neck pain. They may use injections such as numbing medications or a steroid, like cortisone.
How To Prevent Neck Pain
Nearly 72% of all neck pain stems from repetitive (work-related) injury and poor posture. To prevent chronic neck pain, adopt practices that help keep your back straight and your head centered over your spine. Here are a few things to try:
- Maintain good posture when standing and sitting
- Adopt a healthy sleeping position
- Adjust your computer, chair, or desk to avoid straining your neck
- Perform physical therapy exercises to help stretch and strengthen your neck muscles
- Take frequent breaks and rests
- Avoid lifting heavy objects to prevent straining your neck
Let Southeast Pain & Spine Care Help You Today
With conventional medications, chronic neck pain isn’t severe in most cases and disappears in a few days. If the pain continues for over a week, you’ll need to see a doctor. The pain could be a symptom of an illness or injury.
Southeast Pain and Spine Care offers interventional pain procedures and medications to manage and relieve chronic neck pain. Our certified physicians have incredible expertise and experience in providing the best pain management treatments. Ready to meet our physicians? Fill out the form below to contact us.