Sleeping wrong, leaning too close to your computer for too long and even injury can all lead to neck pain. Neck pain can sometimes go away with rest, but when neck pain becomes chronic, it may be an indication of a more serious problem.
If you experience long-lasting neck pain, neck pain accompanied by numbness or neck pain that radiates down the arms, you should see your doctor who can determine which medical treatment is best for helping with your pain.
What Can Cause Neck Pain?
There are many different factors that can cause neck pain. Some symptoms are less serious than others and can be treated at home.
Causes of neck pain include:
- Poor posture
- Muscle strain
- Trauma or injuries
- Herniated disc
- Pinched nerve
- Abnormalities in the bones or joints
- Bone spurs
- Degenerative diseases such as arthritis or cancer
Because there are so many different causes for neck pain, it is important that you visit your doctor if you have prolonged neck pain. From there, your doctor can take an X-ray, perform Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), perform a CT scan or conduct an electrodiagnostic study. These tests can determine the cause of your neck pain so that you and your doctor can create a treatment plan.
Treatment Options for Your Neck Pain
Treatment for neck pain depends on the cause of neck pain. In mild cases, over the counter anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen, rest and ice or heat may help treat neck pain.
Physical therapy may also be a viable option for neck pain. At physical therapy, you will learn neck exercises and stretches that can restore muscle function, increase strength and encourage proper posture. Cervical traction may also help take pressure off pinched nerves.
If therapy and medications do not relieve the symptoms, another option is an injection. There are two types of injections. Epidural injections are cortisone injections around nerves which may help relieve pinched nerve pain. The other type of injection is called a facet injection. A facet injection is a minimally-invasive procedure that can temporarily relieve neck pain that is triggered by facet joint inflammation. Pain in the facet joints can be caused by arthritis, injury or breakdown over time.
When neck pain becomes chronic and nonsurgical methods have failed, surgery may be needed to give lasting relief of pain. Surgical approaches can be from the front or the back of the neck, depending on the symptoms and MRI results. Approaches from the front or back of the neck can be done using a minimally invasive or endoscopic technique. New procedures such as cervical laminoplasty and endoscopic laminotomy and foraminotomy avoids fusion of the spine, and can remove the pressure on pinched nerves or a pinched spinal cord. For example, a posterior cervical endoscopic laminotomy and foraminotomy can be performed as an outpatient with an 18 mm incision, quick return to full activity, and no need to wear a brace or cervical collar.
Another option is cervical fusion. During cervical fusion, a small incision is made at the front or back of the neck. Then, the muscles covering the spine are pulled back so the doctor can insert a small microscope. The intervertebral disc is removed and replaced with a bone graft that will allow the bones to fuse, or grow together, over time. This stabilizes the vertebrae, stopping the degenerative process and releasing the pressure on the nerves.
There are other treatment options that exist and your physician will be able to help you determine a treatment option that will work best for you.
How Can You Prevent Neck Pain?
A lot of neck pain is associated with poor posture and wear and tear. Keeping your head centered above your spine will help gravity work with your neck which can help prevent neck pain.
Changes in your daily routine can also help prevent neck pain. Make sure your desk and chair is adjusted so that your computer is at eye level and your knees are slightly lower than your hips. If you use a phone a lot, use a headset and avoid putting your phone between your shoulder and ear. Stretch frequently and avoid sleeping on your stomach because it puts stress on your neck.