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The neck is composed of vertebrae that begin in the upper torso and end at the base of the skull. The bony vertebrae along with the ligaments and muscles provide stability to the spine. The muscles allow for support and motion.
The neck has a significant amount of motion and supports the weight of the head. However, because it is less protected than the rest of the spine, the neck can be vulnerable to injury and disorders that produce pain and restrict motion.
Muscle tension and strain. This is usually due to activities and behaviors such as: poor posture, working at a desk for too long without changing position, sleeping with your neck in a bad position etc
Injury. The neck is particularly vulnerable to injury, especially in falls, car accidents, and sports, where the muscles and ligaments of the neck are forced to move outside of their normal range.
Meningitis. This is an inflammation of the thin tissue that surrounds the brain and spinal cord. In people who have meningitis, a fever and a headache often occur with a stiff neck.
Other causes of Neck pains
Osteoporosis weakens bones and can lead to small fractures. This condition often happens in hands or knees, but it can also occur in the neck.
Fibromyalgia is a condition that causes muscle pain throughout the body, especially in the neck and shoulder region.
As you age, the cervical discs can degenerate. This is known as spondylosis, or osteoarthritis of the neck. This can narrow the space between the vertebrae. It also adds stress to your joints.
When a disk protrudes, as from a trauma or injury, it may add pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots. This is called a herniated cervical disk, also known as a ruptured or slipped disk.
Spinal stenosis occurs when the spinal column narrows and causes pressure on the spinal cord or the nerve roots as it exits the vertebrae. This can be due to long-term inflammation caused by arthritis or other conditions.
Signs and symptoms include:
- Pain that’s often worsened by holding your head in one place for long periods, such as when driving or working at a computer
- Muscle tightness and spasms
- Decreased ability to move your head
- Tingling, numbness, or weakness.
- Trouble with gripping or lifting objects.
Treatment of Neck Pain
Treatment options include rest, ice application, elevation of the injured area, use a soft neck collar and neck immobilization using a splint, cast, or sling.
Medications such as anti-inflammatory drugs, analgesics and muscle relaxants may be prescribed to reduce the pain and inflammation.
Certain stretching and strengthening exercises may be recommended to strengthen the neck muscles.
Surgical treatment by anterior cervical discectomy with spinal fusion is typically recommended only after non-surgical treatment methods fail to relieve the pain.
An anterior cervical discectomy is a surgical procedure performed to remove a herniated or degenerative disc in the cervical (neck) spine. Spinal fusion may be performed to provide stability to the spine.
Home remedies for neck pain
Most neck pain is associated with poor posture combined with age-related wear and tear. To help prevent neck pain, keep your head centered over your spine. Some simple changes in your daily routine may help.
- Practice relaxation exercise to prevent undesirable stress and tension to the neck muscle
- Perform stretching exercises for your neck before and after exercise
- Keep good posture if you work at a computer and adjust the monitor at your eye level. Stretch your neck frequently
- If you use the telephone a lot, use a headset
- Use a pillow that keeps your neck straight
- Wear seat belts and use bike helmets to reduce injuries