Neck pain can last anywhere from a couple of days to several years. How long a person experience neck pain and the severity of it depends on what is causing the neck pain to begin with. Comprehensive pain management is vital to a patient’s healing process. Our doctors can thoroughly evaluate your pain symptoms in order to accurately diagnose the cause.
Once we have an accurate diagnosis, we will work together with you to create a treatment plan that will effectively address your pain.
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Neck pain can be either:
- Acute (short-term) neck pain is very common. It can happen as the result of tense muscles, sitting in front of a computer for many hours, or sleeping in an awkward position.
- Chronic (long-term) neck pain is neck pain that lasts for 12 weeks or more. It usually occurs as the result of a combination of factors: muscular strain, poor posture, and disc-related conditions.
The neck region of the spinal column, also known as the cervical spine, is made up of bones, nerves, ligaments, and muscles, along with several vertebrae that connect the torso to the head and cervical discs that absorb daily shock. The neck holds the head up and allows for movement, such as turning left or right and looking up or down.
Neck pain usually stems from overuse and bad posture. Most people have some neck pain or stiffness at some point in their life and it typically clears up in a short period of time. A majority of those with neck pain will feel better in one to two weeks and ninety percent of people will have no pain after eight weeks. However, for some, it can last for significantly longer and may need medical intervention to help relieve the pain.
If your neck pain does not go away after several days then it is best to see a pain management doctor. We can help establish the basis for the continued pain and help you determine the best route forward.
The neck is designed to support the weight of the head and so it is vulnerable to daily wear, which can lead to pain and a restriction of motion. Other conditions can also cause neck pain for individuals. Some of the reasons for neck pain are:
Injury: trauma can easily result from the neck being suddenly forced to move or rebound in the opposite direction (known as whiplash) and can leave someone with soreness for a few days. Serious injuries, such as those involving sports, a fall, or a car crash, are more likely to lead to spinal fractures and other issues that can cause long-term neck pain.
Muscle Strain: This is one of the leading causes of neck pain. Sitting hunched over at a desk/computer for hours without changing positions can strain the muscles in the neck and create a sore or “stiff neck.” Another way to strain the neck muscles is by sleeping in the wrong position, sleeping someplace other than your bed, or using a pillow that does not offer enough head and neck support.
Age: As people age, they are subject to a higher risk for the wearing down of joints and cartilage. Degenerative diseases, such as Osteoarthritis and Spinal Stenosis, are one of the biggest reasons for joint and cartilage damage. Osteoarthritis is the actual wearing down of the cartilage that cushions the ends of the bones and affects millions of people over the world. Spinal Stenosis is the narrowing of the spaces within your spine and puts pressure on the spinal cord and nerves.
Herniated Disc: Also known as a bulging disc, it is when the ‘inner jelly-like substance’ pushes out of the disc because of tears or defects in the outer cartilage layer. This puts pressure on the spinal nerves, causing pain. Herniated discs can develop anywhere along the spine, although it is seen more in the lower back or in the neck. Discs that are particularly susceptible to herniation are usually at the early stage of degeneration.
Fibromyalgia: This is a condition that causes musculoskeletal pain all over the body, along with fatigue, sleep problems, difficulty with memory, and moodiness. This pain can easily occur in the neck and about four million adults in the U.S. are affected by Fibromyalgia. People in middle age or older tend to be diagnosed more often with this condition than other age groups.
Stress: Stress can cause a lot of tension in the body, which might make the muscles in the neck tighten in response and end up being quite sore.
Other Conditions: Some other health conditions that can lead to neck pain are Bone Spurs, Meningitis, and Cancer.
While anyone can experience neck pain at any point, there are some groups of people who have a slightly higher risk for neck pain than others.
Neck pain does tend to occur more frequently in women than it does in men and older populations. Neck pain is also found more often in those with jobs that require them to sit at a desk all day, usually staring at a computer or hunched over something they are working on, and having very little movement throughout their day. Anyone who works in a hazardous job that can potentially result in injury (for example construction workers) may develop neck pain from those injuries.
Neck pain may either occur in a specific area of the neck, or it may radiate along nerves. For example, down an arm. When neck pain radiates, it can affect reflexes and muscle strength in the affected areas and can cause tingling sensations.
Some neck pain symptoms, or symptoms that occur along with neck pain, require urgent medical attention.
These symptoms include:
There are ways to prevent neck pain that is merely from overuse of the neck, as it is one of the biggest associated reasons for neck pain. By making little adjustments to your daily routine, you may be able to avoid any further pain.
- If you are having to stand or sit for long periods of time at your job then be sure to use correct posture so that your body is aligned.
- Switch to a memory foam pillow or one that is specifically designed to support the neck and head. Also, try to sleep on your back or on your side. Sleeping on your stomach or in contorted positions puts a significant amount of pressure on the spine.
- If possible, take breaks as often as you can at work and move around some in order to stretch the neck, shoulders, and back and improve circulation flow.
- If you carry a backpack then you need to be sure to use both straps to help balance the weight and not overly strain one side of your neck. Also, try to avoid loading any bags up with a lot of things that will weigh them down too much and pull on your neck as you carry them.
- Make sure to adjust your computer monitor and chair to appropriate heights to help maintain good posture and don’t slouch over any laptops
Our physicians are board certified, and are dedicated to giving you a comprehensive exam that will aid in diagnosing the cause of your symptoms. Using advanced diagnostic techniques, our doctors will find out the reason for your pain, and then get you on the road to better health right away. Here are a few steps our physicians use when completing their comprehensive exams:
We provide a wide range of treatments and therapies for neck pain. Treatment is highly individualized and will depend on the underlying cause of pain and severity of symptoms. Available treatments include:
We believe that comprehensive treatment to chronic pain is the only way to provide the greatest opportunity for long-term benefit and recovery.
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At Pain and Spine Specialists, our team of physicians and nurse practitioners are committed to giving you the most effective treatment when treating your pain. We believe that all patients should have access to quality care, and that is why you can find us conveniently located throughout Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
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