Overuse, such as spending too many hours hunched over the computer or smartphone, often triggers muscle strains. Even minor things, such as reading in bed or gritting your teeth, can strain your neck muscles. Like other joints in the body, neck joints tend to wear out with age. Neck pain usually spreads from the neck to the shoulders or upper back.
The pain may worsen when you hold your head in one position for a long time, such as on a computer. It hurts to move your head. Are you sleeping badly, is it stress, or is it the result of climbing that ladder to clean your gutters? Let's get to the bottom of those real pains in the neck. When your neck hurts, you may have trouble moving it, especially to the side.
Many people describe this as having a stiff neck. If neck pain involves nerves, such as a muscle spasm, pinching of a nerve, or a herniated disc that presses on a nerve, you may feel numbness, tingling, or weakness in your arm, hand, or anywhere else. A common cause of neck pain is muscle strain or tension. Usually, daily activities are the culprit.
These activities include bending over a desk for hours, crouching in place, having poor posture while watching TV or reading, placing your computer monitor too high or too low, sleeping in an uncomfortable position, or jarring twisting and turning your neck while exercising. You can usually treat mild neck pain at home. Simple posture improvements are a great place to start, sit straight with your shoulders back, drive with your arms on the armrests, and avoid carrying shoulder bags. Take breaks when you're sitting in front of video screens or holding a phone.
For pain, you can try over-the-counter pain relievers, such as Advil or Tylenol. And low-level laser therapy can be very effective. Physical therapy can be great for treating or preventing the recurrence of neck pain. Slow range-of-motion exercises, moving your head up and down, side to side from ear to ear, can gently stretch your neck muscles.
A good sleeping position is especially important with the head aligned with the body. You can try to sleep with a special neck pillow. You may want to see a doctor if your symptoms persist for more than a week of self-care, if you have numbness, tingling, or weakness in your arm or hand, or if the pain was caused by a fall, blow, or injury. If the pain is due to muscle spasm or nerve impingement, your doctor may prescribe a muscle relaxant or tricyclic antidepressant and, possibly, a stronger pain reliever than you were taking at home.
You may be referred to a neurologist if you suspect nerve damage in your neck. You can help prevent neck pain or prevent it from coming back in many ways. Use relaxation techniques and regular exercise to avoid unwanted stress and tension on your neck muscles. Learn stretching exercises to help relieve neck and upper body pain, do stretches every day, before and especially after exercise.
Adopt good posture, especially if you sit at a desk all day, keep your back supported, adjust the computer monitor at eye level, so you don't have to continuously look up or down. Talk to your doctor if the pain persists, you don't want to go through life with real pain in your neck. The bones, ligaments and muscles of the neck support the head and allow movement. Any abnormality, inflammation, or injury can cause pain or stiffness in the neck.
Although there are many causes of neck pain, the most common reasons are poor posture, a pinched nerve, and injuries. Simple self-help treatments and a day or two rest are usually enough to relieve an episode of neck pain. It's no wonder that neck pain is becoming more common, as people spend more time hunched over computer desks or watching videos on tablets and phones. You may have axial pain in your neck (mostly felt in your neck) or root pain in your neck (pain shoots to other areas, such as your shoulders or arms).
If the pain lasts a long time, you may be referred for specialist treatment and support at an NHS pain clinic. Learn about neck pain as a musculoskeletal pain condition to identify how you can address neck pain in your co-management treatment plan. Discoveries about the effect of stress, anxiety and depression, as well as the importance of exercise, are changing the way doctors think about neck pain. Often, you can manage short episodes of neck pain yourself with over-the-counter pain relievers and gentle stretches.
Specific neck lift exercises can also help relieve pain and stiffness and prevent future problems. If neck pain is caused by spending many hours in front of a computer screen or sleeping in an uncomfortable position, it is important to correct it. Gabapentin and pregabalin are generally not given as initial treatment for “common” neck pain. If you have pain and stiffness in your neck that came on quickly, possibly during the night, and you have difficulty lifting both arms above your head, this could be a sign of a condition called polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR).