Neck Pain: Possible Causes and How to Treat It

Many people occasionally or chronically suffer from neck pain. It is one of the most common aches characterized by a sharp pain in the region extending from the neck to the upper back. 

Mostly, neck pain is not a significant concern and subsides in a few days. However, if it lasts over a week, you should get medical attention as there might be a serious underlying cause. 

Common conditions leading to neck pain include whiplash, neck injury, a herniated disc, osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis, and a pinched nerve. In some cases, viral infections can also cause neck pain as they result in the swelling of the lymph node. 

However, the root cause isn’t always this severe. In most instances, neck pain results from poor posture or bending over your laptop for too long. 

Below, we will discuss the possible causes, symptoms, and methods for neck pain relief. 

A Brief Introduction to Neck Pain

Neck pain usually affects adults; however, it can occur at any stage in life. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that about 15% of adults in America have neck pain. This pain lasts at least 24 hours (one full day).

Neck pain can occur suddenly due to an injury or accident or develop over time because of bad posture. 

Several external and internal factors play a huge role in causing pain in the neck. 

Someone getting a massage for pain.

The irritation of the spinal cord also leads to pain in the legs and areas around the neck. Therefore, when the nerve pathways in the neck become irritated, it leads to pain in the other body parts as well, including the shoulder, head, and arm. 

Usually, neck pain goes away within a few days with some at-home remedies. For instance, resting your head on a comfortable surface, icing the inflamed area, or improving back posture helps a lot. 

However, if the pain persists for months or interferes with routine activities, one should always consult a professional for a check-up.

Sometimes medications work just as fine, but surgeries can be considered if the underlying cause of pain is severe. If a patient has any questions regarding the risks, benefits, and alternatives of the surgery, the surgeon answers all of them and takes him into confidence.

Causes of Neck Pain 

The most common cause of neck pain is stress in the neck muscles. It could be due to poor posture, working continuously without shifting your position, unknowingly jerking the neck muscles or a poor sleeping position. 

Additionally, an injury to the ligaments can also cause neck pain. For instance, if you’re in an accident or fall off the stairs, your neck muscles will be forced to deter from their normal range of motion, leading to pain. 

Meningitis refers to the inflammation of the meninges – a tissue that wraps around the spinal cord and the brain. People who suffer from meningitis tend to have neck pains accompanied by severe headaches. 

It’s essential to get medical assistance in this scenario as the condition could be fatal. 

In older individuals, neck pain may be due to osteoporosis. Although the condition mainly causes fractures in the knees, it could also affect the neck. 

Likewise, rheumatoid arthritis affects the joints, but it could result in neck pain if the inflammation spreads. Other severe causes of neck pain include: 

The Range of Neck Pain Symptoms

The intensity of neck pain varies. Sometimes it’s so minor that you simply ignore it, and other times it becomes so excruciating that you can’t carry out your daily activities.

The range of neck pain is commonly classified as follows:

  • Acute: Pain that stays for less than 4 weeks.
  • Subacute: Pain that lasts from 4 to 12 weeks.
  • Chronic: Pain that occurs for 3 or more months.

Symptoms of Neck Pain 

The most apparent symptom of neck pain will be a throbbing ache in the neck region. It could worsen if you hold your head in one position for too long, such as while driving or watching TV. 

Some other symptoms of neck pain include:

  • Headaches 
  • Inability to move your head freely.
  • Spasms 
  • Muscle tightness 
  • Pulsations
  • Trouble swallowing
  • Lightheadedness 

How Do Neck Pain Symptoms Develop?

Typically, neck pain develops in several ways, like:

  • Gradually Over Time: The pain may start as mild and only occur once in a while. However, over time, its intensity increases, and it gets worse.
  • Immediately: The pain will develop immediately after an accident or an injury. It may also occur due to bad posture while sleeping.
  • Delayed Reaction After an Accident: Sometimes, you feel the pain after several hours or days after an accident or an injury. It becomes worse over time.
  • Suddenly Without Any Prior Symptoms: The neck pain that occurs suddenly in the middle of a normal day without any prior symptoms or apparent reason.

In a nutshell, the neck pain symptoms can be constant, permanent, or temporary. So you can avoid doing some activities or movements, including sneezing and coughing, and give your neck relief for some time.

When Should You See A Doctor 

Neck pain caused due to poor posture or long-term work generally goes away in a few hours with home treatment. However, if it persists for a week or longer, you should talk to a doctor. 

But, if you have any of these signs, you need to get immediate medical attention:

  • Pain spreads to the lower body
  • Fever and headaches
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Numbness and a tingling sensation 
  • Inability to freely move your hands 

Tips for Neck Pain Relief

For minor aches, you can use the following neck pain relief remedies at home. 

  • Give your body a break. For example, if you’ve been pulling all-nighters, it’s time to take a day off. Similarly, stop playing aggravating sports that might be worsening your neck pain. 
  • Get a neck massage or give yourself one. 
  • Apply an ice pack to your neck in the initial days of the pain. Then, follow it up with a hot shower or a heating pad. 
  • Get a neck pillow if your sleeping position is the root of the problem. 
  • Use over-the-counter medications, like ibuprofen, for pain relief. However, don’t wear a neck collar or brace unless your doctor tells you to. 

How to Prevent Neck Pain?

Unless a severe medical condition causes it, neck pain is entirely preventable. Here are a few things you can do to keep neck pain at bay: 

  • Improve your posture. Whether standing or sitting, make sure that your shoulders form a straight line over the hips. Also, your ears should be directly on top of your shoulder. 
  • When working for long hours, take breaks. For instance, instead of sitting on your work desk for six hours straight, take short walks in between and do stretching exercises. 
  • Adjust your work chair in a way that the monitor is at eye level to your posture. Also, use the armrests while working for extended periods. 
  • Quit smoking as tobacco can put you at risk of neck pain
  • When taking a call, don’t put your phone between your shoulder and ear. Instead, use headphones or turn on the loudspeaker. 
  • Don’t carry heavy bags as their shoulder straps can cause neck strain. Even if you have to use a heavier bag, keep shifting the straps from one arm to the other after some time. 
  • Don’t sleep in uncomfortable positions as it can make you susceptible to neck pain. Instead, sleep on your back or try aligning your head and neck with the body. 

Neck Pain Treatment

A woman's neck.

The suitable neck pain treatment depends on the underlying cause. If it’s a severe problem, your general health care provider will recommend you to see a specialist. Some standard neck pain treatment methods include: 

  • Antibiotics against an infection, if needed. 
  • Neck collar
  • Pain killers 
  • Muscle relaxants 
  • Stretching exercises or physiotherapy 

Neck pain is also one of the symptoms of a heart attack. If that’s the case, you’ll need to go and get treatment at a hospital. However, it is only rare that one may need to undergo surgery against neck pain. 

Other than the conventional treatment, some alternative neck pain relief methods include massage and acupuncture. However, you shouldn’t attempt these therapies at home. Instead, go to a licensed professional. 

CBD for Neck Pain Relief

Alternatively, you can switch to using CBD for neck pain as a natural substitute for all the medications.

Several studies proved that CBD helps with different ailments, including pain, inflammation, anxiety, muscle cramps, insomnia, and much more. 

Fortunately, CBD products now come in various forms like oils, topicals, gummies, and capsules. So for neck pain, you should go for CBD lotions or creams and gently massage your neck area for instant relief.

However, CBD for neck pain works for mild situations. So if your pain is severe, you should immediately rush to your doctor. 

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Neck pain, if persistent for a prolonged period, can be a nuisance as it might disrupt your daily activities. Therefore, it’s best to prevent it in the first place by having a good posture and relaxing your body when required. 

You can also try CBD for neck pain, other creams, and lotions to immediately treat your condition.

However, if the pain doesn’t go away even after trying different home remedies, consult a professional for immediate treatment.

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