Neck pain is one of the most common reasons people ask for physical therapist’s help. The most often cause for this is sitting in front of a computer for eight straight hours every day and physical inactivity.
Sometimes, the pain is localized only in your neck, but more often it spreads all the way to your fingers and chest.
What Causes Neck Pain
There are many causes of neck pain. It can be a sign of a tumor, degenerative disk disease, or a herniated disk, or it can be caused by poor posture or bad sleeping position.
Sleeping on a couch and using way too many pillows was the main reason for my cervical syndrome. The pain was almost unbearable, and I could not make it through a day without at least two painkillers. After five weeks of intensive therapy, I was back being my old self. However, I had to get rid of my old couch, and to get a new bed and a mattress.
Text neck is a condition caused by spending a lot of time on your phone in a position where your neck is down, and your shoulders pulled forward. The pain is located in your neck, shoulders, and lower back.
Neck straining is caused by keeping your neck in a strange position for long periods of time.
Another cause of neck pain is stingers. This is a common sports injury that causes sharp and intense pain in shoulders and neck.
Whiplash would be the most common injury in a car accident if you got hit from behind. Due to a strong force, the neck quickly goes forward then backward, just like a whip. The symptoms include spasm of shoulders and neck, as well as intense pain.
Disk is a tissue between our vertebrae. When it ruptures, the jelly substance leaks and puts pressure on nerves. That causes pain and numbness in neck and arms.
Spinal stenosis is a process where your spine narrows, and local nerves get pinched by the vertebrae. It causes pain and weakness of the spine and limbs innervated by injured nerves.
Bone spurs cause ligaments to loosen. To compensate for the looseness, ligaments then get thicker, form a new bone and put pressure on the nerves. This condition causes inflammation, pain, and tenderness.
Degenerative Disk Disease
Degenerative disc disease is a common symptom of getting old. It does not have to cause pain, but it often does. It also causes general weakness, numbness, burning sensation, and poor bladder control.
Another cause of neck pain are benign or cancerous tumors. They can cause severe problems especially if pressuring the spine.
How is Neck Pain Treated
Neck pain treatment depends on the cause of pain. It includes physical therapy, transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) with electrodes placed on skin, traction or neck stretching, and short-term immobilization with a collar.
During acute state, a doctor can prescribe pain medications, muscle relaxants, and antidepressants.
How to Ease Neck Pain
To mitigate neck pain, avoid sleeping on your stomach, and sleep on your back or side instead. Also, make sure that your mattress is right fit for your needs. If you have back problems, your mattress has to be firm enough to provide support, and soft enough to provide comfort. Also, try sleeping without a pillow.
Soft massage will not hurt as well as applying ice to a sore area. However, if the pain persists, contact your physician for advice. In some cases, self-treatment may cause more damage than good.
How to Prevent Neck Problems
If you are lucky enough and do not have neck problems, here are some tips and tricks how to maintain your good condition:
- Sleep on your back
- Do not use too many pillows
- Keep your monitor at eye level
- Do not look down at your cell phone
- Stay hydrated
- Pay attention to your posture
Also, do not forget to stretch and relax during long office hours.
Unfortunately, neck pain is a common problem of individuals who spend their days in front of computers. However, this is not the only reason why the pain occurs. It can be caused by a neck injury, degenerative disk disease, herniated disk, straining, text neck, bone spurs, spinal stenosis, etc.
If you experience neck pain, pay attention to your sleeping habits, and your posture while you are sitting. The treatment includes pain medications, muscle relaxants, physical therapy, and short-term immobilization if required.