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Don't let neck pain be a fact of life

The neck is a vital part of our body that is designed for strength, stability, food, air and nerve communication. Our neck is made up of a network of bones, joints, nerves, tendons and muscles that connects our head to our body. The neck creates a path for the spinal chord and holds up the head, which weighs an average of 5 kilograms! The neck performs a heavy-duty task of making sure we have stability, mobility and strength in our head movements, so no wonder neck pain is so common.

The main part of the neck is made up of seven interlocking vertebrae called vertical vertebrae numbered C1 to C7. Each vertebra is connected to the next by facet joints and separating them are rubbery cushions made of cartilage called intervertebral discs. These discs act as shock absorbers and help the neck move smoothly.

Common causes of neck pain

  • Bulging disks
  • Cramps
  • Cluster headaches
  • Facet joint pain
  • Migraine
  • Muscle strain
  • RSI- repetitive strain injury
  • Whiplash
  • Tension headache
  • Pinched nerve
  • Degenerative joint disease
  • Bad posture

Types of neck pain

There are two main types of neck pain;

  1. Acute 

Acute neck pain happens quite suddenly and heals within days to weeks. It shouldn’t last too long but if it does you need to see a doctor. Acute neck pain is usually in the muscles, ligaments, joints or discs.

Symptoms

  • Stiff neck- makes turning difficult
  • Sharp or stabbing pains
  • Soreness or tenderness

Possible diagnosis examples;

  • Whiplash
  • Muscle strain
  • Poor posture

 

  1. Chronic 

Chronic neck pain lasts a lot longer than acute neck pain and usually lasts for more than 3 months. It is important that you see a doctor if your neck pain still persists after 3 months as you could have a more serious problem.

Symptoms

  • Tingling
  • Numbness
  • Weakness that affects shoulder, arm or fingers
  • Trouble gripping or lifting objects
  • Problems walking, balance or coordination
  • Loss of bladder control
  • Muscle spasm
  • Nerve pain
  • Reduced range of motion

Possible diagnosis examples;

  • Degenerate disc disease
  • Herniated disc
  • Cervical Spondylosis
  • Cervical spinal canal stenosis
  • Cervical radiculopathy

Diagnosis

If your neck pain continues and you see a doctor, there are a few ways that you pain will be diagnosed. The first things your doctor will do is check your medical history and do a physical examination, if they cannot come to a conclusion there are a few things they might do. Your doctor might suggest X-rays, MRI scans, ST scans or even electromyography to help diagnose and fix your pain!

Treatment

If you have acute neck pain, there are a few things you can do at home to ease the pain. If these home remedies don’t work within a few days, it is important to go to your doctor to be examined.

Home treatment

  • Rest
  • Icing the area
  • Improving posture
  • Updating your pillow