No, we’re not referring to an annoying colleague or neighbor, but the actual, physical neck-pain.
Most of us have woken up with a sore neck, or one that feels bolted into place like Frankenstein’s monster. If you know what it is caused by, it’s usually pretty easy to treat, and to prevent.
Why you get neck pain
Your neck supports the full weight of your head and is also flexible. While this gives you the ability to move your head, it also makes your neck more vulnerable to injury.
So, let’s take a look at the symptoms, causes and treatments of neck pain. We’ll also discuss when you need to go and see your doctor.
- Unable to move your head
- Holding your head in one place for long periods of time, e.g. sitting at a computer for hours without moving around.
- Poor posture: Are you sitting on your bed, hunched over, as you read this? Go and sit in a comfortable chair with proper back support. You may also be causing damage to your spine!
- Using the wrong type of pillow: Are you waking up with neck pain? A pillow that is too firm or high can cause strain. Always choose a pillow that fits the shape of your neck and if you sleep on your side, support your neck so that it’s in line with your body.
- Injury: Neck injuries are very common in car accidents because of the sudden impact that causes your neck to jolt backwards very quickly (whiplash).
- Sport: Players of contact sports such as rugby and football can be at high risk for injuring their necks through a tackle or fall.
- Diseases: Cancer, meningitis and certain types of arthritis can cause neck pain.
Practical treatments you may not know about
- Yoga. Are you frustrated that you will have to cancel your favourite yoga class because of your neck pain? Think again! Yoga helps to ease neck pain. Here are some yoga poses to add to your routine.
- Stay hydrated. Did you know that when you’re born, each spinal disc is made up of roughly 80% water, keeping the discs at the correct height and alignment. As you age, the discs can fall out of position. Make sure you drink water throughout the day to help lessen the rate at which this happens. According to an article by the Mayo Clinic, the adequate intake (AI) for men is 3 litres (13 cups) and for women is 2.2 litres (9 cups) daily. (You get most of this water in through food and drinks, though – so no need to drown yourself at the office water fountain!)
Medical treatment options
Treatment of neck pain depends on how the pain occurred. A pharmacist will generally advise you to take non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDS) such as ibuprofen. A combination of applying ice and/or heat may also be used.
Physical therapy in the form of movement exercises, which help to stretch and strengthen your neck is also an option. Here is some more information about exercises for neck pain.
When you need to make an appointment with your doctor…
If you begin to experience any of the following symptoms – or if you have them already and they become worse, please go and see your doctor!
- Numbness in your arms, legs and/or buttocks
- If the pain actually wakes you up
- Your pain increases even though it wasn’t caused by any physical activity
If the pain is due to an injury that has caused damage to the spinal cord – you may need to have surgery, but this is a last resort and your doctor will discuss the pros and cons of this with you.
And there you have it – your complete neck pain guide. If this article has made you feel like watching Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, sit back and relax – just remember to support your neck!