There are quite a number of causes of neck pain, and sometimes, the exact cause may not be known. However, simple neck pain is usually caused by such trivial things like bad posture, stress or sleeping in awkward positions.
In older people, neck pain may be caused by wear and tear of the bones in the neck and the shock-absorbing discs between them.
Sometimes the root of a nerve is squashed or injured as it comes out between the bones in the neck. It can happen when a bone or discs in your neck press on a nerve.
Neck pain is also common after car crashes and sports injuries.
What are the symptoms?
Most times, neck pain is noticed suddenly, such as on waking up from sleep. It usually improves after a couple of days. The pain may become worse on movement and this may tense the neck muscles giving a feeling of rigidity. The pain may radiate to the head and shoulders. If a nerve root is compressed, the affected hand may feel numb, weak or tingly.
If the neck pain gets worse or lasts mush longer than expected, it is important to see a doctor. They will rule out serious causes of neck pain by examination and possibly sending for tests including imaging (x-ray, CT scan or MRI) and blood tests depending on his suspicions.
What treatments work?
There are lots of different treatments for simple (uncomplicated) neck pain.
• Manipulation or mobilisation of the neck by a professional may help.
• Exercises to strengthen the neck muscles and improve flexibility may help long-term neck pain.
• Painkillers.may help ease the pain. Some of them called Nonsteroidal anti–inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can also reduce inflammation. A doctor’s prescription may be required for stronger painkillers. An NSAID called Diclofenac shouldn’t be taken by people with heart problems.
• Antidepressant drugs may be prescribed if the neck pain lingers and disturbs sleep.
• Muscle relaxants may be helpful to people in severe pain from muscle spasms, but they are only used for a short amount of time to avoid dependence. They include drugs like diazepam.
For neck pain caused by an injured nerve, no treatment has been proven substantially to help. Sometimes, corticosteroid injections or surgery are used. More research is needed in both cases.