Neck pain can be caused by a number of things, from spending too much time in front a computer or workbench to having a more serious health problem, such as kyphosis. In most cases, neck pain will go away on its own with over-the-counter pain medications and some rest. If you’re working for long periods of time in the same position, you may want to take more breaks or alter your work area so it is more ergonomic.
However, there are times when neck pain is a sign that something is wrong. If you have a shooting pain that goes down your arm or into your shoulder, experience a loss of strength in your hands or arms, notice changes in your bowel or bladder habits or can’t touch your chin to your chest, you will want to see your doctor as soon as possible.
The most common causes of neck strain are strained muscles, compressed nerves, worn joints or a recent injury, such as being in an accident. Diseases can also cause neck pain, including rheumatoid arthritis, meningitis and some cancers.
As mentioned, you will want to see your doctor immediately if you have the following symptoms:
These could be a sign of a serious health issue.
Your doctor will start by asking you a lot of questions about your neck pain, including its location, when the pain first started, what you were doing at the time and the type of pain you’re having, whether it’s a dull ache or a sharp, radiating pain.
Additional testing may include x-rays, a CT scan or an MRI to determine the cause of the pain. Your doctor may also do some tests on your nerves and take blood samples and perhaps even a spinal tap, which can turn up signs of meningitis.
If your pain doesn’t clear up with traditional home remedies – including rest and over-the-counter pain medications – your doctor may make additional recommendations regarding your care.
One course of treatment is prescription pain medications and muscle relaxers or the use of cortisone injections applied directly to the neck area. These can provide temporary pain relief while your body continues to heal naturally. Alternating hot and cold treatments (a warm shower followed by an ice or gel pack) can provide relief by reducing inflammation.
Physical therapy may also be beneficial. Your doctor may prescribe that you see a physical therapist to learn about exercises and stretching that can help relieve neck pain. These are designed to restore muscle function, improve your posture and increase the strength and endurance of your neck muscles.
Other non-surgical options include traction or the use of a soft collar to temporarily immobilize your neck.
If surgery is required, the options usually focus on relieving compression on the nerve roots or spinal cord.
If you suffer from chronic neck pain that just won’t go away with time, pain medications and rest, you’ll want to see your doctor at the Florida Hospital Celebration Health Spine Center for discuss your condition and explore remedies.