When Should I See My Doctor
You should see a doctor if:
- the pain is getting worse
- the pain doesnt ease up in a week or so
- you have numbness, tingling or pins and needles in your arms or legs
- you start having difficulties with your bladder or bowel
- you have a fever as well as neck pain
What Are The Causes
Neck pain can result from injury, poor posture, stress, natural wear, disease, and other sources. Poor spinal alignment and improper lifting stress the cervical spine and make injuries more likely. Neck pain can result from:
- Injury or trauma: A whiplash injury, sports injury, or fall can strain or tear muscles and ligaments. Fractures can occur.
- Bulging or herniated disc: The gel-like center of a spinal disc can bulge or rupture through a weak area in the wall and compress nerves.
- Pinched nerve: Compression of a spinal nerve as it leaves the canal can cause pain to travel down the arm into the hands or fingers. Pinched nerve pain differs from carpal tunnel syndrome, which usually involve numbness.
- Osteoarthritis : As discs naturally age they dry out and shrink; bone spurs can form. These changes lead to stenosis or disc herniation.
- Stenosis: Narrowing of the bony canals in the spine can compress the cord and nerves, causing them to swell and inflame.
Getting Much Better Sleep
Having neck and back pain can make sleeping tough. A lack of sleep might worsen your neck and back pain since you arent getting adequate sleep.
A bad rest placement can also worsen pain in the back. You may intend to attempt existing on your side.
Preserve a neutral spinal column position by placing a cushion in between your knees.
A pillow under your knees will certainly aid you rest on your back. A firm mattress is best for resting.
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Give Acupuncture A Chance
In this form of Chinese medicine, a practitioner places fine needles at certain points in your body. Stimulating these points may release your bodyâs natural painkillers — endorphins — to ease neck, shoulder, and head pain. Some studies show that if you get acupuncture over several months, you may cut the number of tension headaches you get.
Pay Attention To Your Sleeping Position
If you still prefer to sleep on your stomach, be mindful of the pillows you use. Pillows that are too large may push your neck too far to the other side when sleeping on your side.
Your pillows should be no larger than the space needed for your head to lie flat without curving up. You can even train yourself to sleep properly with no pillows. Feel the natural alignment of your head and neck position without the influence of pillows. When you sleep, make sure your head and neck are properly aligned with the rest of your spine.
To avoid waking up in pain, make sure you arent sleeping directly in the path of cold air. This can cause the neck muscles to tighten.
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Change Your Sleep Position
The position you sleep in at night can also affect your neck. Sleeping on your side or your back puts less strain on your neck than sleeping on your stomach. When you sleep on your stomach, youre forcing your neck to strain for long periods of time and this can cause pain and stiffness.
If you sleep on your side for all or part of the night, you can buy a pillow with neck support.
Schedule An Appointment For Your Neck Pain With Disc
If you have neck pain and headaches, figuring out what is causing the pain can help you get relief.;At DISC, our team of specialists at practices throughout the greater Phoenix, Arizona, area can diagnose your condition. We can then offer you relief tips for headaches caused by neck pain.
We always recommend the least invasive options first. You might see improvement with conservative solutions like heat and cold, relaxation techniques or medication. If your neck pain and headaches continue, surgery;might be the best option to help you get the relief you want. To learn more, contact DISC today to schedule an appointment.
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What Causes Neck Pain
The neck is also called the cervical spine. Its made up of seven bones responsible for supporting the head and allowing nerves to travel from the spine to the brain. When any part of the neck is injured or strained, pain can occur. Some common causes of neck pain include:
- Your car: How you drive can contribute to neck pain. The way you sit in the drivers seat should make it easy for you to hold your spine straight without leaning forward or craning your neck. If the seat is too far back or too low, youre likely to lean forward and put stress on the neck. Driving for long periods can also cause eye strain, which can lead to discomfort in the neck.
- Your phone: If youre always checking your phone, you might have noticed soreness in the neck. Looking at your phone with your head dropped and your shoulders stooped affects your necks curve, potentially leading to problems. When youre stooped forward, theres more weight and pressure on the neck, which can lead to muscle strain.
- Your work style: Sitting in front of a computer or at a desk all day is known to contribute to spinal problems, including neck pain. If your computer monitor is too low or too high, you have to strain your neck to clearly see the screen, putting more pressure on your neck.
Dont Drive For Long Periods At A Time
Just like sitting at your desk all day, sitting behind the wheel of your car can affect your neck. If you have to drive for long periods, here are some tips for preventing a stiff neck:
- Take breaks to stand up and stretch.
- Set an alarm to remind you to check your posture while driving.
- Set your seat in a position that provides you the most support and puts you in good posture.
- Dont text and drive. Its illegal, dangerous, and bad for your neck to be repetitively looking up and down from your phone to the road.
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Shower Or Soak With Bath Salts
Water may do wonders for your neck pain from sleeping wrong. When taking a shower, run lukewarm or hot water over your neck and head for about five minutes. Remember to keep your neck straight during the shower.
Alternatively, you can also soak in a warm bath with Epsom salt. This can improve circulation and relieve tension in your neck muscles.
Other Tips For Neck Pain Sufferers
In addition to choosing the right pillow, you can reduce neck pain through lifestyle changes like adopting proper posture, taking stretching breaks, and generally being more active. People who suffer from neck pain should avoid shoulder bags, slouching, and long periods of sitting at the computer.
- Choose the Right Mattress: Your bodys overall position is influenced not only by your pillow, but also your mattress. Plusher mattresses allow your body to sink down further, meaning youll need a lower-loft pillow. The opposite holds true for firmer mattresses, which will require a higher pillow to maintain proper alignment of the neck and spine.
- Engage in Physical Therapy: From daily habits to more serious regimens, there are plenty of exercises you can do to relax your neck muscles and relieve strain on the neck, shoulders, and upper back. A certified massage therapist or chiropractor may also be able to help. Always consult a health professional before starting any kind of treatment.
- Use Ice or Heat: Many neck pain sufferers receive instant relief from a hot or cold compress, or from taking a warm shower. This may not cure your neck problems, but it can be a helpful short term solution.
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Headaches Caused By A Neck Problem
Headaches stemming from a neck problem are usually chronic and vary in type depending on the cause. Common examples include:
- Cervicogenic headache . CGH usually begins as a dull ache in the neck and radiates upward along the back of the head, almost always affecting just one side. Pain may also spread to the forehead, temple, and area around the eyes and/or ears. CGH is caused due to an underlying disc, joint, muscle, or nerve disorder in the neck.
Best Sleeping Position For Neck Pain
If you have spent the entire day with stiff and sore muscles, then you probably want to know how to sleep correctly with neck pain at nighttime. You may need to improve your posture while you sleep by choosing a position that helps keep your spine in alignment.
What is the best sleeping position for neck pain specifically? In general, there are two sleeping positions that are most comfortable on the necksleeping on your back or your side. Lets take a look at how to best side sleep and back sleep.
- Back sleeping: Back sleepers are best to use a thin pillow to support the natural curve of your neck. It may be helpful to use a small neck pillow or a specialized pillow with built-in neck support. You can also put a small neck roll into the case of a soft pillow.
- Side sleeping: How about the best pillow for neck pain for side sleepers? Those that sleep on the side typically need a thicker pillow to ensure the head and neck is positioned in the middle of the shoulders. The height and width of your shoulders are also important to consider. For instance, a petite person will require a slimmer pillow than a broad-shouldered individual.
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When Does A Headache Indicate A Serious Health Problem
Most headaches are painful but not dangerous. However, headache pain can be a warning sign of a more serious health problem. Learn when you should contact your health care provider to find out if your headaches are a sign of a more serious problem like a brain tumor.
Thomas P. Mecke is a chiropractor in the Osher Clinical Center for Integrative Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital
What Symptoms Relate To Neck Pain
The pain often spreads from the neck towards the shoulders or upper back, and it often causes headaches. You might find the pain is worse when you hold your head in one position for a long time, for example, at a computer.
Neck pain might also come with muscle tightness or spasms, and you might not be able to move your head very well.
If you have a neck injury, you might also have dizziness, pins and needles or numbness, weakness, changes to your vision or hearing, problems concentrating or difficulty swallowing. See your doctor if you have any of these symptoms.
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Tips To Relieve Headaches From Neck Pain
After youve figured out the cause of your neck pain and headaches, there are things you can do at home to help ease the pain and start to feel better. Heres how to relieve headaches caused by neck pain:
1. Improve Workplace Ergonomics
Adjusting how you work is good for preventing headaches caused by pain in the neck. How you sit at work can put strain and pressure on your neck. If possible, adjust the height of your monitor so you are looking directly at it rather than up or down.
If you sit, choose a chair that is the appropriate height for you. Your feet should rest flat on the floor when you sit, and your knees should be a few inches from the edge of the chair. If you have to look down at paperwork while on the job, consider getting a stand to hold the documents at eye level so you arent constantly bending your neck.
2. Improve Your Posture
Your posture has a significant effect on how your neck feels. If you regularly slouch, you put a lot of extra weight on the head and neck, leading to pain and discomfort.
The first step toward improving your posture is becoming aware of it. When you stand, notice the angle of your back, neck and shoulders. Try to stand up as tall and straight as possible. That means pulling in your stomach and pushing your shoulders back slightly. Your head should be level as if you are balancing a book on it.
3. Improve Your Sleep
4. Exercise More
5. Schedule a Massage
6. Manage Your Stress
7. Try Heat and Cold
Physical Therapy Exercise And Other Strategies To Improve Neck Pain
Physical therapy is recommended for people with migraine and neck pain, says Kumar. Physical therapy can help in strengthening the neck muscles and promote overall relaxation. There are physical therapists who specialize in targeting those particular areas of the neck involved in migraine, she says.
Anything that relieves stress can be helpful, including yoga, meditation, and relaxation exercises, says Kumar.
Many of the same exercises that help with migraine and neck pain can improve other types of headache-related head and neck pain, including cervicogenic headaches. A study published in the Journal of Rehabilitation Medicine found that a yearlong program of isometric, dynamic, and stretching exercises helped decrease headache in women with cervicogenic headache.
The Feldenkrais method can help relieve different types of pain and discomfort, including neck pain, through the practice of gentle exercises and directed attention. This helps retrain the brain and results in people moving with greater ease and less pain. Additional benefits include improved posture, reduced stress, and better flexibility.
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Heat Therapy For A Painful Neck
Heat therapy can be used to increase blood circulation, and increase motion and flexibility. Try applying a heating pad, a warm compress or a damp towel on the affected area for 20 minutes. Be sure to wrap the source in a towel before applying it to your neck to protect the skin.
Some people use cold therapy to numb the pain, such as ice packs, a bag of frozen vegetables or an ice towel in order to reduce swelling and pain immediately after injury for acute pain or a new and recent swollen and inflamed injury. However cold therapy is not recommended for stiff muscles or joints.
For more information about heat and cold therapy, see my article on when to use cold or heat therapy for pain, stiff muscles and joints.
Get Some Sleep But Dont Overdo It
Tension headaches and related neck pain can be even more of a disruption to your daily life if youre not getting enough sleep. Sleep deprivation can make existing headaches worse or even contribute to them. On the flip side, theres research suggesting sleeping too much may cause tension headaches or make them worse.
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Preventing And Living With Neck Pain
While avoiding neck pain isnt always possible, you can keep your neck muscles strain- and stress-free by creating healthy habits. Instead of in front of a computer all day, for example, take stretch breaks throughout the day.
If your neck pain feels worse at the end of each day, consider your posture. Are you sitting up straight? Sitting in your chair with your feet flat on the floor?
If your neck pain feels worse in the morning, check your sleep position and pillow. Use a pillow that supports your neck and keeps it straight. Avoid sleeping on your stomach with your neck twisted, if possible.
What if you go to sleep feeling fine and wake up with neck pain? Daily life can take its toll on your neck. If you wake up with neck pain, the best thing to do is give your body time to heal on its own. To get through the day without letting the pain interfere with your normal activities, you have a few options.
- Gently stretch your neck: the Spine Universe Exercise Center offers a video with 3 neck stretches and exercises to help relieve a stiff neck.
- Take over-the-counter pain medications, such as Tylenol or Advil.
- Alternate between heat and ice treatments on your neck: 20 minutes of heat followed by 20 minutes of ice should help relieve the pain and expedite the healing process.
- Rest: take a few days off from any strenuous activities that aggravate your symptoms, such as sports and heavy lifting.
Already dealing with neck pain?
What Are The Most Common Nonsurgical Treatments For Neck Pain
If you are experiencing chronic pain , it is important to seek medical attention for further evaluation and treatment. Treatments for neck pain vary, depending on the cause and duration of the neck pain you are experiencing. Many neck pain patients find relief in using one or a combination of these therapies. The most common treatments include:
Medications: Both over-the-counter and prescription medications may help manage neck pain, reduce inflammation, and decrease muscle spasm and sleep disturbance. The first line of treatment when it comes to neck pain medication is typically non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications , such as ibuprofen and naproxen, and acetaminophen . Some NSAIDS can be applied topically to the skin, such as Voltaren Gel and Aspercreme; other topical treatments include Icy-Hot, lidocaine based patches, and CBD creams/ointments.
Prescription medications such as muscle relaxers and nerve pain medications are sometimes considered, says Dr. Bonte. Muscle relaxants are used more often for acute pain rather than chronic pain.
For those with neuropathic neck pain, injections including a steroid and pain reliever may be effective, especially if done in conjunction with physical therapy. Ablation of the nerves near the neck joints may improve mobility and reduce pain, too.
Complementary therapies:Alternative treatments may be helpful in managing neck pain. Some of the more popular complementary therapies for treating neck pain include:
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