Neck pain is very common among individuals of all ages. It can be caused by the simple straining of neck muscles from hunching over a computer or moving awkwardly, but may be a result of an underlying condition such as osteoarthritis, disc disease or other less common problems.
Neck pain can be associated with muscle spasm, a limited range of movement, headache, arm pain, weakness, numbness and unsteadiness.
The neck supports the weight of the head yet is flexible to allow movement which makes it susceptible to conditions which can cause pain, including:
- Muscle, tendon or ligamentous injury: this can occur because of trauma (including falls and motor vehicle accidents) or poor posture, e.g., whilst using a computer or phone.
- Joint arthritis: just like other joints in the body, the joints in the neck and spine can wear down over time. When this happens, it can contribute to neck pain.
- Nerve compression: disc bulges (called herniations) or bony spurs (called osteophytes) can irritate and compress the spinal cord or nerves which branch out from the spinal cord to the arms. This can lead to neck pain, tingling, numbness, weakness and unsteadiness.
Sometimes it is a less common underlying problem that causes neck pain such as ossified posterior longitudinal ligament, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, infection, and fractures.
Simple lifestyle changes can help alleviate and prevent most neck pain. These include:
- improving your posture whilst sitting and standing. The head forward posture is a very common cause of neck pain;
- adjusting your desk and screen height so the screen is at eye level;
- taking frequent breaks to get up and move around;
- quitting smoking. Smoking can cause and worsen arthritis;
- optimising your sleep position. Consider purchasing a memory foam pillow.
Mostly neck pain will improve over a couple of weeks. Alternate hot and cold compress on your neck may help relieve the pain alongside over the counter pain medication. Physical therapies can often help treat neck pain.
If these do not work and your neck pain continues your doctor may suggest further investigation such as a CT or MRI and possibly steroid injections. These involve injecting a combination of corticosteroid and local anaesthetic near the nerve roots or into the facet joints to help relieve pain.
If the pain is persistent, severe or associated with nerve compression or symptoms of weakness, numbness or unsteadiness, then referral for a specialist opinion should be sought.
Dr Laban sees patients with all types of neck pain related problems and conditions. Even though neck pain is common, there can be underlying issues that you may not be aware of. If your neck pain and related symptoms are getting in the way of life and not resolving then it is important to get an expert opinion. Patients often ask to see Dr Laban for a second opinion given his extensive knowledge and surgical expertise.
Contact us to book an appointment and get the diagnosis and help you need.