Facts on Neck Pain
The neck is also referred to as the cervical spine. Its primary purpose is to support and control the movements of the head. The neck is made up of a system of muscles, bones, and nerves, including seven bones that are connected by joints on each side of the neck, which makes the neck the most flexible part of the spine. It also contains discs located between the vertebrae that absorb impact and provide padding. Because of its flexible and sophisticated stature, the neck is easily a place where pain can occur.
Symptoms of neck pain may include a stabbing, burning or dull pain, chronic headaches, stiffness, achiness, pain that travels down the shoulders or chest, a limited range of motion, soreness, and numbness in the arms. Whiplash is one of the most common causes of neck pain. It occurs when the neck or head is suddenly jerked such as when someone is rear ended in an accident. Although Whiplash is the term most people are aware of, this type of injury is medically known as a condition called cervical acceleration-deceleration. It occurs when there is damage done to the tendons, vertebrae, nerves, muscles, and discs in the neck.
Other causes of neck pain may include:
- A sports or overuse injury
- Abnormal gait
- Improper footwear or posture
- Herniated disc
- Strain from slouching
Treatment includes over-the-counter medications such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and acetaminophen. Topical analgesics are also available to reduce inflammation by stimulating the nerve endings with heat or cold sensations. Physical therapy, exercises for stretching the neck, and traction weight to gently pull the skeletal structure and realign the spine may also be warranted.