Key Points About Back And Neck Pain
- Back and neck problems range from minor aches to severe, disabling pain.
- Often, the reason for your pain can’t be found.
- See a healthcare provider if you have numbness or tingling, severe pain that does not improve with medicine and rest, trouble urinating, weakness, pain, or numbness in your legs, fever, unintentional weight loss, or pain after a fall.
- Often, back and neck pain will improve over time. See your healthcare provider if your pain is not decreasing.
- Use prevention strategies to keep yourself healthy and injury-free.
- For severe, disabling, or chronic back pain, consider an individualized rehabilitation program.
Other Causes Of Neck Pain When You Wake Up
There are certainly other causes that can also contribute to you waking up with neck pain. In some cases, you may develop a sore neck during the day, too. Some common causes of neck pain include:
- poor posture during the day
- working too long at a computer, or watching television for too long without changing positions
- osteoarthritis in one of the upper spinal joints
- nerve compression caused by a herniated disk or bone spur in your neck
Can Neck Pain Cause A Headache On One Side
Along with causing headache neck pain at times can be observed on only one side of the neck like right side neck pain or left side neck pain with a headache. This kind of pain on the particular side may be the offshoot of many underlying conditions like injuries, blood vessel problems, and inflammatory diseases. Tension headaches and migraines can also lead to pain on one side of the head.
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The Serious Consequences Of Delaying Treatment
If you have a compressed nerve in your neck and you delay your treatment, you can wind up with shooting, electrical-like pain extending into your back and all the way down your arms. Over time, a pinched nerve can cause your muscles to become weak, and it can interfere with your ability to use your hands. Eventually, that damage can become permanent, which means delaying care could result in a lifetime of disability.
Of course, that doesnt mean you should ignore muscle strain either. When you strain a muscle, it can cause inflammation which can, in turn, presses on nerves. Or, you might wind up compensating for the strain by putting excess pressure on other areas of your neck and shoulders, which can also press on nerves. What does that mean? Even a seemingly minor muscle strain can wind up causing nerve compression, which can then cause serious and even permanent damage. The bottom line is pretty simple: Any type of chronic neck pain that goes on for days on end without relief needs to be seen and evaluated by a medical professional.
Symptoms Of A Pinched Nerve
A pinched nerve in the low back usually is perceived as radiating down the leg. Here again, the symptoms the person experiences seem to be traveling into the leg along the usual path. This is the basis of referred pain.
Muscle spasm in the back commonly accompanies pinched nerves and can be quite painful.
Sometimes, nerves can be pinched and the only symptoms may be numbness and weakness in the arm or leg without pain. Other symptoms include tingling, burning, electric, and a hot/cold sensation.
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When Should I Call The Doctor If I Have Neck Pain
Contact your doctor if you have neck pain that interferes with work or other daily activities.
In rare cases, neck pain can be a sign of a medical emergency. Seek urgent medical care if your neck pain:
- Develops after having an accident.
- Happens with numbness or tingling in the arms, shoulders or legs.
- Occurs with weakness in legs or loss of coordination in arms or legs.
- Includes headache, dizziness, nausea, or vomiting.
- Involves loss of bowel or bladder control.
- Arises along with a stiff neck.
- Occurs with chills, fever, or unexplained weight loss.
- Stays the same when resting or moving.
- Does not respond to over-the-counter medications.
- Does not lessen after one week.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 12/12/2019.
Nerves Carry Signals Throughout The Body
A is like a fiber-optic cable, with many fibers encased in an outer sheath. You can think of each individual fiber as a microscopic garden hose. The green part of the hose is a fine membrane where a static electrical charge can travel to or from the brain. The inside of the hose transports fluid from the nerve cell body that helps nourish and replenish the ever-changing components of the green part, or membrane.
If the nerve is pinched, the flow up and down the inside of the hose is reduced or blocked, meaning nutrients stop flowing. Eventually, the membrane starts to lose its healthy ability to transmit tiny electrical charges and the nerve fiber may eventually die. When enough fibers stop working, a muscle may not contract and skin may feel numb.
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What Are The Structures Of The Neck
There are seven vertebrae that are the bony building blocks of the spine in the neck that surround the spinal cord and canal. Between these vertebrae are discs, and nearby pass the nerves of the neck. Within the neck, structures include the skin, neck muscles, arteries, veins, lymph nodes, thyroid gland, parathyroid glands, esophagus, larynx, and trachea. Diseases or conditions that affect any of these tissues of the neck can lead to neck pain.
Your Neck Changes With Age
The top portion of your spine ,along with supporting structures, makes up the neck. The spine is a stack ofbones separated by cushioning disks made of cartilage. A hollow columnrunning through the middle contains the spinal cord. Small joints behind eachvertebra called facet joints connect each vertebral body to the vertebrae aboveand below.
The vertebrae are connected by ligaments and supported bymuscles. At each level of the spine, nerves leave the spinal cord throughopenings. From the cervical spine, they extend to the arms.
Over time, degenerative changes happen to these neckstructures in just about everyone. The disks between vertebrae can becomethinner. The facet joints can develop osteoarthritis, meaning the cartilagecovering the ends of the bones at the joints wears down. Bone spurs can form atthe edges of the vertebrae and ligaments can thicken.
These changes will be visible on an X-ray, but just becausewe can see them doesnt mean people feel them, Dr. DeMicco says.
These changes dont always cause symptoms, but sometimesthey do. In addition, an injury or added stress from poor posture or strainscan make you more likely to have symptoms than before you had thesedegenerative changes. This means its especially important to do the thingsthat will reduce stress on the neck.
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What To Expect At Your Office Visit
Your provider will perform a physical exam and ask about your neck pain, including how often it occurs and how much it hurts.
Your provider will probably not order any tests during the first visit. Tests are only done if you have symptoms or a medical history that suggests a tumor, infection, fracture, or serious nerve disorder. In that case, the following tests may be done:
How Neck Pain Is Treated
You doctor will perform a physical exam and take your complete medical history. Be prepared to tell your doctor about the specifics of your symptoms. You should also let them know about all prescription and over-the-counter medications and supplements youve been taking.
Even if it doesnt seem related, you should also let your doctor know about any recent injuries or accidents youve had.
Treatment for neck pain depends on the diagnosis. In addition to a thorough history and physical exam by your doctor, you may also need one or more of the following imaging studies and tests to help your doctor determine the cause of your neck pain:
- blood tests
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Avoid Lifting Heavy Items
Lifting heavy items can lead to injuries of your shoulder blades. Therefore, try not to lift heavy weights. It can trigger pain between your shoulder blades. Do not carry bags that are heavy on one side of the shoulder. It can put stress on that particular side of the muscles. Never bend and lift any heavy objects. Try to bend your knees before lifting. It will avoid putting too much pressure on your back. So, by taking precaution, you can avoid any injuries to your back shoulder.
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What Causes A Pinched Nerve
A nerve can be pinched as it leaves the spine by a herniated disc or that form from spinal arthritis. Another common place for pinched nerves is the carpal tunnel. This is a bottleneck area, through which all the finger flexor tendons and the median nerve must pass to the hand. Regardless of where the nerve is pinched, in the neck or carpal tunnel, the patient often will feel similar symptoms of numbness in the hand, because the brain does not know how to tell the difference between the beginning, middle, or end of a nerve. It only knows that it is not receiving signals from the hand, and so numbness begins.
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Pinched Nerve From A Herniated Disc
Injury to the disc may occur when neck motion puts too much pressure on thedisc. One of the most painful injuries that can occur is a herniated disc. Inthis injury, the tear in the annulus is so bad that part of the nucleus pulposussqueezes out of the center of the disc. The annulus can tear or rupture anywherearound the disc. If it tears on the side next to the spinal canal, then whenthe nucleus pulposus squeezes out, it can press against the spinal nerves. Pressureon the nerve root from a herniated disc can cause pain, numbness, and weaknessalong the nerve. There is also evidence that the chemicals released from theruptured disc may irritate the nerve root, leading to some of the symptoms ofa herniated disc – especially pain.
Herniated discs are more common in early, middle-aged adults. This conditionmay occur when too much force is exerted on an otherwise healthy intervertebraldisc. An example would be a car accident where your head hit the windshield.The force on the neck is simply too much for even a healthy disc to absorb andinjury is the result. A herniated disc may also occur in a disc that has beenweakened by the degenerative process. Once weakened, less force is needed tocause the disc to tear or rupture. However, not everyone with a ruptured dischas degenerative disc disease. Likewise, not everyone with degenerative discdisease will suffer a ruptured disc.
Signs And Symptoms Of Sciatica
The main characteristic of sciatica is pain that begins in the lower back, radiates into your buttock, and spreads down the back of your leg. Pain can be present anywhere along the nerve pathway. Other symptoms of sciatica include the following:
- Tingling, numbness, or muscle weakness in the affected leg or foot
- Pain that can be mild, sharp, burning, or severe
- Pain that feels like an electric shock
- Symptoms that get worse upon prolonged sitting
- Pain that worsens when you cough or sneeze
- In some cases, pain in one part of the leg and numbness in another part
If the symptoms below sound familiar to you, do not delay seeking medical help.
- Severe pain that becomes progressively worse
- Pain that persists for more than a week
- Sudden or severe pain in the low back or leg
- Pain following a major injury, such as a vehicle accident
- Numbness or muscle weakness in your leg
- Problems controlling your bowels or bladder
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Can I Prevent Neck And Back Pain
The following may help to prevent back and neck pain:
Practice correct lifting techniques: avoid heavy lifting when you do lift something, bend your legs, keep your back straight, and then slowly lift your body and the object.
Properly use telephones, computers, and other equipment.
Maintain correct posture while sitting, standing, and sleeping.
Exercise regularly. Learn specific back-strengthening exercises to keep your back muscles strong. Warm up with stretching exercises before doing back exercises.
Do exercises that improve your balance.
Reduce emotional stress, which may cause muscle tension.
Make sure you have enough Vitamin D and calcium in your diet.
Heat Or Ice Treatment
Warm compresses or cold compresses can help to quickly relieve pain in your rib cage caused by injuries, inflammation, or other painful causes.
According to researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center, a cold pack or compress can help to reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation in the first 48 hours after an injury. After that time, you should use a warm compress to increase circulation and reduce muscle spasms and stiffness.20
To make a warm or cold compress to treat rib pain in your middle or upper back, this is what you should do:
Cold compress for injuries to your middle back
Warm compress for back rib pain
Hot and cold compresses are also excellent natural remedies for relieving lower back pain.
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Fixing Upper Back And Neck Pain
Upper back and neck pain can stop you in your tracks, making it difficult to go about your typical day. The reasons behind this discomfort vary, but they all come down to how we hold ourselves while standing, moving, and most important of all sitting.
Neck and upper back pain can limit your movements and capabilities. If you dont do anything about your pains, they can get worse, spread, and limit you further. This is usually because the muscles around your immediate area of pain have tensed up to protect that one spot. That expansion limits movement and can turn one clenched muscle under your shoulder blade into a painful shoulder and a tension headache.
Causes of upper back and neck pain include:
- improperly lifting something heavy
Our love of screens is also a likely culprit in upper back and neck pain. Sitting all day working on a computer screen, craning your neck to read the news on your phone on the way home, and slumping on the couch to watch several hours of television are great ways to throw your body out of alignment.
Like many health conditions, the effects of neck and back pain can be more severe in people who smoke or are overweight. Excess weight can add more pressure on the muscles.
What Can Cause Sharp Pain In Your Neck And Shoulder When Breathing
A couple of conditions can cause pain in the neck and/or shoulder when you take a deep breath, including:
- Pleurisy : Symptoms include sudden chest pain that may be felt only while coughing or breathing deeply, fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
- Pericarditis : Symptoms include rapid-onset stabbing chest pain, possibly pain in the shoulder, fever, weakness, and trouble breathing. It gets worse if you lie down or breathe deeply.
Pleurisy and pericarditis aren’t usually medical emergencies but you should treat any chest pain or breathing difficulty as an emergency until you know for sure what’s causing it.
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Signs Your Neck Discomfort Is Probably Not Related To Your Heart
The pain occurs only when you move your neck or in certain positions.
It occurs only after a certain weightlifting exercise.
Its clearly associated with sleep position or a particular pillow.
The area of discomfort is sore or tender to the touch.
Its accompanied by tingling or a numb sensation going down the arm.
Ongoing neck pain without an explanation or that does not respond to modifications, such as a more comfortable pillow or ceasing a suspected offending exercise, needs a medical evaluation even if there are no other symptoms with it.
Dr. Krishnan is with Pacific Heart & Vascular, where you can view his videos on heart disease and healthy living. He has numerous publications and often speaks at local and regional events.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. Shes also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.
Back And Rib Pain: Causes Of Upper To Middle Back And Rib Pain
Issues with your muscles, ligaments, or ribs in your back can often cause rib pain in the back. The middle and upper part of your spine is called the thoracic region and it helps to support your upper body. Irritation, inflammation, back rib injury, strained or pulled back muscles, or a herniated disc can all cause pain in ribs and back.
Back rib pain or middle back pain is less common than lower back pain. However, pain in your upper or middle back can cause a lot of discomfort in your day-to-day activities. Depending on the cause of mid-back pain, you may have dull aches and discomfort between your shoulder blades. Sometimes, the back pain can feel as sharp and jabbing discomfort that suddenly gets worse. Or, back muscle stiffness may make lifting your arms sore and painful.
There are many ways to get rid of back and rib pain without having to turn to painkillers. For example, hot or cold compresses can help to increase blood circulation and speed up the healing process. Or, you may have to improve your posture to ease nagging pain and prevent rib pain in your middle back. In many cases, stretching exercises strengthen and flex the strained muscles and ligaments in your middle back to relieve pain.
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