Neck Pain: Managing at Home
Neck pain or a stiff neck is a common problem and usually nothing to worry about, except that it may be far more troubling.
Neck pain or a stiff neck are extremely common and can affect your life in so many different ways. Whether it is sharp neck pain, dull muscular aches, headache, or an inability to fully move your head, a sore neck, it can be very frustrating yet it’s simple to fix in the majority of cases.
The pain and stiffness usually gets better after a few days or weeks, and is rarely a sign of a more serious problem.
Neck pain can occur anywhere in your neck, from the bottom of your head to the top of your shoulders. It can spread to your upper back or arms. It may limit how much you can move your head and neck.
What Causes Neck Pain / Stiffness?
Neck pain can be caused by any of these:
1. An activity that harms/strains the neck.
You can get a painful or stiff neck if you sleep in an awkward position, use a computer for a prolonged period of time, or strain a muscle because of bad posture like slouching, continuously looking at an elevated screen etc. Anxiety and stress can also sometimes cause tension in your neck muscles, which can lead to pain in your neck.
2. An injury.
Neck pain can also be caused by an injury. A fall from a ladder or whiplash from a car accident can cause neck pain.
3. A medical condition.
Some less common medical problems like an infection in the neck, narrowing of the spinal canal in the neck (Cervical Spinal Stenosis), Rheumatoid Arthritis can also lead to neck pain.
In such cases the symptoms are far more acute. You may feel a knot, stiffness, or severe pain in your neck. The pain may spread to your shoulders, upper back, or arms. You may get a headache. You may not be able to move or turn your head and neck easily. Sometimes you might have pain that shoots down your arm, numbness, tingling, or weakness in your arm. If you have such severe symptoms, you need immediate medical attention.
Whatever it may be, it is important to make an accurate diagnosis of the cause of your neck pain so that appropriate treatment can be directed at the cause. In most cases caused by the first reason – neck strain, you can normally manage your symptoms at home by following the advice below.
Managing Neck Pain at Home
For most of neck pain cases caused by strain/ posture, the advice is generally the same: carry on with your normal daily activities, keep active, and ease your neck to relieve the symptoms. You can also take these steps to manage your pain:
- Try holding a hot water bottle or heat pack to your neck – this can help reduce the pain and any muscle spasms, although some people find cold packs offer better relief
- Sleep on a low, firm pillow at night – using too many pillows may force your neck to bend unnaturally
- Check your posture – bad posture can aggravate the pain, and it may have caused it in the first place
- Avoid driving if you find it difficult to turn your head – this may prevent you being able to view traffic
- If your neck is stiff or twisted, try some neck exercises – gently tense your neck muscles as you tilt your head up and down and from side to side, and as you carefully twist your neck from left to right; these exercises will help strengthen your neck muscles and improve your range of movement
- If the pain or stiffness does not improve after a few days, or if you are worried your neck pain could have a more serious cause, you should see a doctor or Physiotherapist without further delay.
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What Increases Your Risk?
Certain conditions can increase or decrease the chances of you getting a neck pain. Some of these are controllable and can be worked upon, while there are few others that remain beyond control.
Uncontrollable Risk factors for Neck Pain:
- Age. People who are middle-aged or older are more likely to have breakdown (degeneration) of discs or joints, as well as bone spurs in the vertebrae of the neck (cervical spondylosis).
- Recent injury or history of injury. A common injury to the neck is whiplash caused by a car accident.
- Conditions that affect the bones and soft tissues of the neck and back, such as rheumatoid arthritis, a narrowing of the spinal canal (cervical spinal stenosis), or a severely curved spine (scoliosis).
- A history of headaches.
Controllable Risk factors for Neck Pain:
- Awkward positions that put stress on the neck, or poor posture at home or at work.
- Stress or depression, or boredom at or unhappiness with work.
- Heavy physical work.
- Smoking or drug abuse.
- Poor physical condition and lack of exercise
The human body is incredibly talented and will adjust itself so that other joints or muscles move further or work harder than they should to self-manage the pain. While this is usually okay on the short term, it’s devastating in the long term for neck pain. Unfortunately the result is often chronic neck pain, neck stiffness, headaches, wry neck or even tension type migraine.
Luckily, there is a very quick, extremely safe and long-term solution. And it’s waiting for you at ReLivaTM Physiotherapy & Rehab
Physiotherapy and Neck Pain
When you visit a physical therapist, you’ll first have a complete evaluation to assess the extent of movement, strength, reflexes and other potential sources of pain in the neck.
We understand that neck pain is not solely about joints and not solely about neck muscles. There is a whole gambit of information that your physiotherapist will analyse and correct if needed to resolve your individual problem. New research has shown that a combination of neck joint and muscle treatment performed by your physiotherapist and some specific strengthening exercises are an effective way to eliminate your neck pain, stiffness and headaches.
During treatment, your physiotherapist will work on relieving pain, strengthening your neck muscles and also help you improve your posture and range of motion. To help you learn proper postures, the physiotherapist might have you stand in front of a mirror while exercising so that you can see your mistakes and correct them.
The good news is that you can also reduce your chances of neck pain returning significantly if you do the right thing quickly. Please contact us for more specific advice on your neck pain.
SELF HELP ADVICE- You may find the following advice helpful in preventing neck pain:
Do’ s :
- Make sure you have good posture when sitting and standing
- Take regular breaks from your desk, driving or any activity where your neck is held in the same position for a long period of time
- If you often feel stressed, tryrelaxation techniquesto help ease any tension in your neck
- Do turn to one side while getting up from supine/sleeping position.
- Use hot pack for your neck.
- Use towel roll under the neck during supine lying.
- Use pillow of normal thickness in side lying position.
- Use a seat belt when in a car.
- Make sure your mattress is relatively firm – a soft mattress could mean your neck is bent while you sleep
- You should retract your shoulders (move shoulders backward) atleast once every hour.
Don’t s :
- Avoid sleeping on your front, and make sure your head is in line with your body (not tilted to the side) if you sleep on your side
- Don’t bend your neck for a prolonged period of time.
- Avoid sitting for prolonged period of time in stressful posture.
- Do not lift heavy weights on head or back.
- Do not drive for long hours; take breaks.
- Avoid habit of holding the telephone on one shoulder and leaning at it for a long time.
- Do not take many pillows (usually only one) to keep your head level with your body, while sleeping.
- In order to turn around, do not twist your neck or the body; instead turn around by moving your feet first.