The neck is a very sensitive, yet very tough part of the human anatomy. Its job is to keep the head (which weighs about 11 pounds) held high while keeping intact all the vascular and neural connections to and from the brain. Due to its intricate nature, there is a lot that can go wrong and cause neck pain.
If you are experiencing pain in the neck, then you need to be aware of the causes and risk factors involved.
Major causes of neck pain
Neck pain can come from a variety of different factors:
These have to do with how old you are, what activities you engage in, how you rest, how you get around and so on.
Do you sit in a slouched manner? Do you carry a heavy backpack or purse on your shoulders? Or do you move your head often in repeated motions? All these and similar questions can answer why your neck hurts. Any kind of strain caused by physical activity can create problems and manifest itself in the form of a very unpleasant neck pain.
Yes, stressing over your daily life or career can also cause pain in the neck (and ultimately headaches and migraines). Stress, whether physical or emotional, manifests itself in the form of poor posture and tightness in muscles, especially in the neck. This can often cause some degree of pain and discomfort in the neck, even though it might not always be apparent.
3. Sleeping habits and posture
Many people complain of neck problems after a bad night of sleep. Not sleeping enough worsens the situation. However, bad sleeping postures can result in some very serious consequences. Using a large pillow at night or not using a pillow at all can cause neck strain. Falling asleep on a chair or couch can make your neck very stiff and sore the next morning. Always sleep on a comfortable piece of bedding and in the proper sleeping posture.
You can treat neck pain caused by environmental factors. Be sure to massage your neck and go through a few neck exercises to help relax the muscles. There are mobile apps such as Injury map that can help you manage pain in the neck through exercises.
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Accidents or injuries
4. Pinched nerves
A pinched nerve results because of its surrounding tissue (muscle, bone, or cartilage) putting pressure on it, causing loss of nerve function, pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness. For example, a herniated disc following a sports injury may cause a nerve to get pinched, which can sometimes be serious. If this is the case, and you feel any numbness or tingling in your body accompanying neck pain, you should see a doctor or a chiropractor.
Whiplash occurs when the head moves from one direction to another very rapidly, as is often the case during a car accident, causing damage to the spinal cord. The pain following such an injury can be quite severe, so it is important to see a medical professional as soon as possible. Whiplash is known to have caused paralysis and even death, so best rush to a hospital if you ever get one.
6. Sports injuries
Rapid neck movement, collision with another player, injury with sports equipment – these are all normal occurrences during sports. Regular sports players might be used to it, but even they are susceptible to neck injuries following herniated discs, whiplash and more. If you have been playing sports and notice pain in your neck, it could be a sports-related injury, which needs checking.
Severe medical conditions and disorders can also be the cause of pain in the neck. An example of such a disorder is degenerative disc disease. Infections that cause neck pain include throat infection causing swollen lymph nodes, tuberculosis of the neck, osteomyelitis (infection of the spine bones), and meningitis. Other conditions that cause pain in the neck include fibromyalgia, polymyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis and more. Certain tumors also cause severe neck pain.
Refer to this list of medical conditions causing neck pain. If you exhibit any unusual symptoms beyond just pain in the neck, please consult with a physician at the earliest.
Conclusion: It might be time to see your doctor
As mentioned already, the cause of your neck pain could be any number of things. It is always prudent to try preventive measures and home remedies, but certain serious situations might necessitate a visit to the doctor. Check out for the following red flags:
- The pain doesn’t respond to treatment
- It is getting worse over time
- Numbness or weakness in any part of the body following the neck pain
- Tingling sensation or pain in the limbs
If any of the above applies to you, it might be time to see the doctor. The neck is a very important part of the body and not taking care of it can have very serious repercussions. Seek professional help and stay safe and healthy! Good luck!