Neck pain is a common problem among people of all ages. But sometimes neck pain can be a symptom of an autoimmune disease, tumors, inflammation, pinched nerve, problems with blood vessels or damage to the spinal cord. You should immediately visit a doctor if you notice the following symptoms:
- Discomfort or pain which lasts for at least a few days
- Growing pain sensations
- At least one of the following risk factors applies to you:
- You’re over the age of 55 or under 20 years
- Neck pain increases when tapping
- You have fever, nausea or general malaise
- You lost weight for no apparent reason
- You experience regular headaches
- You feel numbness, tingling, weakness in arms or legs.
Why Does the Neck Hurt?
The neck is thin and flexible and it holds a weighty head which also spins back and forth, upsetting the balance. In general, the neck is always tense. But sometimes the load increases and may cause neck pain. There are other factors that may trigger neck pain:
1. Muscle strain
Almost everyone who spends a lot of time at a computer experiences neck pain. When you sit, you unconsciously lean forward. Thus, the muscles seriously strain and this causes neck pain. Over time, the muscles get used to being in the wrong position which means that pains from tension become regular. By the way, such things as reading in bed and teeth grinding may also lead to muscle strain.
2. Worn joints
Like other joints in the body, cervical joints wear out with age. Elastic cartilages which provide the necessary cushioning under loads and soft turns become thinner and sometimes completely break down. Due to thinning cartilage, the joints rub against each other during movements. This causes stiffness and pain.
3. Whiplash injuries
During a whiplash injury, the head moves forward and then leans back and again moves forward to the chest. The load on the muscles increases and they are sharply stretched which causes microcracks.
4. Muscle inflammation
Muscle inflammation is also called myositis. Infectious diseases such as SARS, flu, or viral sore throat can trigger muscle inflammation. Most often, myositis is not dangerous and passes by itself within a few days.
5. Lymph node inflammation
The accumulations of lymph cells can cause lymph node inflammation which results in neck pain. This is a sign that the body is struggling with infection concentrated in the neck and head.
Most often, this is due to flu, SARS, and ear infections. But sometimes the cause of swollen neck lymph nodes can be tooth decay, immune disorders, and even HIV.
How to Relieve Neck Pain?
The vast majority of neck problems are associated either with muscle strain or with worn joints. These situations don’t require special treatment. Discomfort usually passes within a few days. You can relieve neck pain using the following methods:
- Take pain medications
- Put a bag of ice or frozen vegetables wrapped in a thin towel around your neck. This will also help relieve swelling.
- If the discomfort persists after several days, a hot shower will help you relieve pain
- Do exercises that gently stretch your neck muscles and improve blood circulation. Please note that training is prohibited in case of acute pain or diseases of the cervical spine such as pinched nerve or hernia.