Neck pain is a common ailment that affects 50-70% of people some time in their lives. There are a number of potential causes of neck pain ranging from poor posture to whiplash. Neck pain is commonly caused by repetitive strain from prolonged sitting postures. 85% of the time the pain is mechanical coming from either the muscles, joints or ligaments. Fortunately, it is rare for the pain to be caused by a serious medical problem and such causes can be ruled out by a thorough history and examination from your healthcare provider.
When should I see a doctor?
Often neck pain episodes will get better on there own as nature takes its course. It’s important to stay as active as possible as the old adage of bed rest and trying to completely avoid pain is not the best advice. Most people do just fine by staying active, coping the best they can, and modifying daily activities as to not re-agitate the tender tissues.
You Should see doctor when
- when you experience sharp shooting pain into your arms with or without numbness and tingling into your fingers.
- when the pain is too much for you to cope with or there are specific activities important to you that you are having difficult undertaking.
- When you have associated headaches, dizziness or nausea
- When you experience weakness in your grip or you find yourself dropping items.
Neck pain is a very common problem and the chances that it is caused by serious disease are very rare. Health practitioners can help suggest possible ways to control your pain and advise you of ways to deal with the pain and get on with your life. It is normal to worry about the cause of your pain and the impact it may have on your life. Talking with your healthcare provider about these worries and concerns can be helpful. You will usually find there is no serious cause of the pain and that there are ways to relieve the symptoms and get you back to your normal activities.
Make sure you work with your healthcare provider to find ways to better manage and control the neck pain.
What can I do for myself?
Keep in mind that staying active with your normal activities is the best thing you can do to limit the effects of neck pain on your life. You may have to modify the way you perform certain activities to keep from aggravating the tender tissues. Examples may be having to adjust and modify your workstation so that you are not having to look up or down at your computer screen, using telephone headsets rather than repeatedly cradling the phone with your neck, Pain medication, hot/cold packs, massage, manipulation and other modalities may offer pain relief, but they are best used to getting you re-activated and moving on with your life. Keep in mind that the pain is your own and the manner in how you deal with it and return to normal activities is the greatest thing you can do for yourself. Try to stay working as only in cases of particularly severe pain do you need to be off work. You may need to find restricted duties or reduced hours, but staying active is important. Staying active helps prevent long-term problems. If it has been several weeks since you have been back to work, you really should be planning with your doctor or therapist and employer how and when you can return. Here are some ideas to keep your neck pain from becoming a more long-term problem:
- Keep moving.
- Do not stay in a position for too long.
- Move before you stiffen up.
- Move a little more each day.
- Take “mini” stretch breaks throughout the day.
- Don’t stop doing things-just change the way you go about doing them.
Ways to increase your activity.
First ask what is it that I want to do? Is it driving, sitting at your desk, etc.? Find out how long you can perform this activity without “flaring-up” your condition or making you worse off than when you started. This is individual to you. Reduce the amount or time of activity by 20% so you’re able to perform the activity, but it does not take you to the “flare up” point. Having a little discomfort is alright, though the duration of the activity should not make you worse off than before. Gradually increase the activity little by little, as not to reach the “flare-up” state. Slowly you will notice you’re able to do the activity longer without “flaring-up” the condition. Don’t be too upset if you have a “flare-up,” just reassess your activity level and continue on. It’s normal to have good days and bad days. It takes some patience, but it works.