You know it when you feel it: tight, sore, or aching muscles in your neck and across your shoulders. Neck pain is common type of pain that affects over 20% of the population in the U.S. Whether you woke up with a sudden crick in your neck or developed neck pain over time, here’s what you need to know about this painful condition, and how to treat it.
Can neck pain be something serious?
With just six tender cervical vertebrae supporting your head, it is completely understandable that neck pain can generate anxiety. This primal instinct to protect the mobility of our necks reaches way back to the time when we were fleeing saber tooth tigers.
But there is good news: the majority of neck pain will go away on its own. And even the serious types of pain are often very treatable.
Another piece of good news is that serious neck pain causes like cancer, infection, autoimmune diseases, spinal cord injury, or a damaged blood vessel arrive with other red flags and warning signs.
These red flags and warning signs of serious underlying conditions might include:
- Fever or chills (especially for diabetic patients)
- Neck pain that does not improve or worsens over time
- Weight loss without dieting
- Severe weakness
- Shooting pain in the limbs
- A feeling of heaviness
If you experience any of these symptoms in connection with neck pain, it is important to seek medical attention immediately.
Absent these other red flags, neck pain is often treatable not life-threatening. That doesn’t mean, though, that it can’t severely impact your overall quality of life.
What are the major causes of neck pain?
You still have pain in your neck (but no other symptoms), so what could it be? While many people focus on the neck itself, the entire structure of your back, including the lower back and the tops of the shoulders, can contribute to neck pain.
Here are five major neck pain causes you should know about.
1. Trauma or accident
Far and away one of the most common causes of neck pain is trauma or accidents. In the U.S., when car accident victims filed an insurance claim, 69% of them did so for a neck injury, most often whiplash.
Whiplash occurs when the car stops moving but the body continues forward, violently straining the tendons and ligaments in the neck. Other types of trauma can occur during contact sports or falls.
2. Sleep issues
A poor night’s sleep can really lead to a pain in the neck. In your semi-conscious state, tossing and turning all night (or sleeping on a terrible pillow or unsupportive mattress) can cause kinks, cramps, and aches in your neck. These can travel down the back and across the shoulders, leading to pain in other areas as well.
While this neck pain cause is not quite so serious, the pain surely can be. It can last for a week or more and severely impact the quality of your daily life.
Osteoarthritis is often referred to as a “wear and tear” condition. After years of swiveling our heads and bending them back and forth, the gel-filled discs and cartilage that cushion the spaces between our cervical vertebrae can become worn or depleted.
When this cushion is gone, the bone-on-bone rubbing that occurs can result in pain and inflammation with movement.
4. Nerve compression
Compression of your nerves can also occur as a result of a variety of conditions, including:
- A herniated or bulging disc
- Spinal stenosis
- Wear and tear over time
This compression can first cause tingling or numbness. It’s often followed by pain that can be burning and consistent or intermittent and sharp.
The phenomenon of “text neck” is real. Our “head forward” posture as we increasingly hunch over our computers, tablets, and smartphones for hours at a time is resulting in serious muscle strains and injury to our necks.
The amount of pressure placed on your neck as you press it forward to scroll through Instagram is astonishing. At a 15-degree tilt, your neck sustains 27 pounds of pressure. This jumps to 40 pounds at 30 degrees and 49 pounds at a 45-degree angle. That’s like carrying a toddler around on the back of your neck all day long! Over time, this pressure can cause serious neck injuries and pain, including herniated discs and deterioration in the neck.
What are common neck pain symptoms?
Neck pain symptoms can vary in location and intensity and include the following:
- Pain that either worsens with movement or after periods of stillness
- Pain that radiates down the side of your neck, tops of the shoulders, or down the back
- Muscle tightness or spasms
- Limited range of motion (without pain)
However you’re experiencing neck pain, know that there is help. At Alliance Pain Solutions, we offer a range of treatments to help relieve your neck pain.
How will Alliance Pain Solutions help with my neck pain?
Working with cutting-edge pain management tools, physical and massage therapists, chiropractors, and all of our support staff, Alliance Pain Solutions uses a personalized approach to design a neck pain treatment that is best for you.
Neck pain diagnosis
Our first approach to treating your pain is diagnosing the underlying medical condition if one is present. We use a hands-on examination that tests your reflexes, pain levels, and range of motion. Obtaining a medical history that includes day-to-day activities and any accidents in the recent past is also important.
If neck pain is persistent and we suspect an underlying cause like tendon or ligament damage, we may also use X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs.
Our neck pain treatment approach
Our goal for treatment is based on conservative, thoughtful care: not too much, not too little – just the right amount. The Alliance Pain Solutions team utilizes proven protocols for diagnosis and treatment that has resulted in positive outcomes for patients.
Some potential pain relief treatments we offer for neck pain include:
- Medial branch blocks
- Joint injections, including epidural steroid injections and facet joint injections
- Radiofrequency ablation
Beyond medical interventions, we believe in helping you resolve your pain with targeted, non-invasive treatments like chiropractic care, physical therapy, and massage, all under one roof.
Alliance Pain Solutions is a West Phoenix pain clinic, but we welcome patients from all over the Valley. Get in touch today to schedule your appointment.