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Neck Pain - Symptom, Treatment And Causes

Last Updated: Oct 29, 2021

What is Neck Pain?

The neck is made up of vertebrae which extend from the upper torso to the skull. The muscles, ligaments and bone allow for motion and also supports your head. Any injury, inflammation and abnormalities can cause neck stiffness or pain. neck stiffness can also be caused due to overuse of the neck muscles or poor postures. Neck pain is more commonly caused due to a whiplash, contact sports or a fall.

What is the symptoms of Neck Pain?

There are many symptoms of Neck Pain. Some commonly associated ones are:

  • Dull Aching.
  • Difficulty in turning head or neck.
  • Numbness.
  • Tingling sensation.
  • Sharp shooting pain.
  • Difficulty in swallowing food.
  • Trouble in breathing.
  • Shoulder pain.
  • Headache.
  • Lower back pain.

Can Neck Pain be a sign of something serious?

It is very rare that Neck Pain can cause a serious problem. But if your Neck Pain persists for more than 1 week or it is accompanied by numbness and pain in your arms then it is time to consult the doctor. This is something serious and you should seek medical help.

What causes neck pain?

Neck stiffness or pain can arise due to a lot of reason such as:

Muscle strain and tension-

  • Poor posture or keeping your neck in an uncomfortable position for a long time.
  • Working on a desk for a prolonged period of time wthou changing our posture.
  • Falling asleep with your neck in an uncomfortable position.
  • Jerking the neck while exercising or performing a strenuous workout.

Injury- Neck pain can also be caused during fatal falls or car accidents. In this case, the ligaments and muscles are forced to move excessively outside their normal boundaries. If the cervical vertebrae or the neck bones are fractured, the spinal cord also tends to be damaged.

Heart attack – In some cases, neck pain can be an underlying cause of a heart attack. if neck pain is caused due to a heart attack, it can be accompanied by other symptoms such as shortness of breath, sweating, nausea, vomiting, jaw and arm pain.

Meningitis- Neck pain can also be caused due to meningitis. This disease is characterized by an infection or an inflammation of the tissue which surrounds the spinal cord and brain. During meningitis, headache and fever is accompanied along with neck pain.

Rheumatoid arthritis- This condition can be characterized by swelling and pain in the bone spurs and swelling of joins. When these signs start to occur along with neck pain, it can be an early sign of rheumatoid arthritis.

Fibromyalgia- Neck pain can be caused due to this disorder which is characterized by muscle pain in the entire body especially in the shoulder and neck region.

Herniated cervical disc- This condition occurs when a disc in the body starts protruding as a result of an injury or trauma. This condition is also known as slipped or ruptured disc.

Other causes- Sometimes neck pain can also be caused due to spinal cancer, tumors, abscesses, infections and congenital abnormalities.

When should you be concerned about Neck Pain?

You can observe some warning signals to find out if you should be concerned about your Neck Pain or not. Consult a doctor if you have:

  • Severe Neck Pain without any reason.
  • Swelling in your neck.
  • Bad headache.
  • Mystery fever.
  • Nausea.
  • Vomiting.
  • Weakness.
  • Swollen glands.
  • Numbness.
  • Problem swallowing food or breathing.
  • Tingling sensation.
  • Inability to move your arms or hands.
  • Pain that travels down to your arms/legs.
  • Bladder or Bowel dysfunction.
  • Pain during light tapping on spine.

What is best for Neck Pain heat or cold?

The general suggestion is to use an ice pack at least for the first 24 to 48 hours post-injury. It will help in reducing swelling. Later you can use heat to relax muscles and recover your neck from stiffness. But if you have a cervical disc disease, then neither heat nor cold is going to make your pain better.

In this case, opt for the way that you find the best. No matter whether you choose cold or heat, 20 minutes are enough. Always remember to wrap your cold or heat source in a towel as it is the best way to keep your neck safe from nasty burns.

What is the best exercise for Neck Pain?

Neck Pain can actually give you a tough time. You can try these exercises to avoid Neck Pain.

  • Forward and backward tilt.
  • Shoulder roll.
  • Side Rotation.
  • Side tilt.

Make sure you attempt every exercise slowly and smoothly. Continue these exercises for at least 15 days to see the difference. Also, it is better to keep your general exercise routine regular to avoid any kind of pain in your body. This is a perfect way to keep your body healthy and strong.

Summary: Neck Pain can cause several problems if persisted for more than one week. Therefore, it is important to address it immediately before it gets worse. Physical exercises accompanied by physiotherapy can help you to overcome Neck Pain. In case of a serious issue, it is advised to seek medical help quickly.


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Written ByDr. E. Logesh MSPT (Master of Physical Therapy),BPTh/BPTPhysiotherapy
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