Treating Neck And Shoulder Pain
Treatment of neck and shoulder pain depends on the underlying cause.
Heart attack, stroke, and other serious conditions often include emergency treatment. For most other situations, home remedies, physical therapy, and massage will bring improvement.
Some of the more serious situations that may require surgical treatment include:
Diffuse Idiopathic Skeletal Hyperostosis
Diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis is calcification or a bony hardening of ligaments in areas where they attach to the spine. Ligaments are supposed to be flexible, so DISH can cause symptoms such as pain, stiffness, and restricted movement.
Top Symptoms: joint pain, upper back pain, stiff neck, stiff back, trouble swallowing
Urgency: Primary care doctor
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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When To See A Doctor
See your doctor promptly if you have symptoms of stiffness that are also associated with shooting pain or numbness and tingling in the neck area. Regardless if you have these symptoms or not, persistent neck stiffness should be evaluated and your physician can determine the diagnosis. He or she may recommend:
- Non-inflammatory medications: Your doctor may prescribe this type of medication to combat arthritic processes that are causing neck stiffness symptoms.
- Surgery: If at-home remedies and medication options from your doctor do not provide relief, you and your doctor may look into surgical options.
How To Treat A Stiff Neck After Sleeping
Waking up with a stiff neck can be unexpected and inconvenient. Despite a stiff necks potential for severe, sharp pain and reduced range of motion, some people might feel pressure to maintain the days planned activities, such as going to work or class. Below is an explanation of how a stiff neck might develop during sleep, as well as strategies for finding quick relief before making a decision as to what can be realistically accomplished during the day.
These 4, simple, at-home remedies can help to alleviate neck pain and stiffness that results after sleeping.Watch:Video: 4 Best Stiff Neck Remedies After Sleep
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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
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.
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What Are The Symptoms Of Neck Pain
If your neck hurts, you may notice other symptoms including:
- Pain that gets worse when you hold your head a certain way while working on a computer, driving, or doing other tasks
- Muscle tightness or spasms
- Do you have numbness or weakness in your arms or hands?
- Does moving your neck in a certain way make things better or worse?
- Does coughing or sneezing make the pain worse?
Stretches That Will Relieve Neck Pain And Tension
Stiff neck? The area above your shoulders is one that commonly holds tension, especially if you’re sitting at a desk all day or constantly staring down at your phone screen.
According to research, neck pain may feel like a “kink,” stiffness or severe pain. This pain may spread to the shoulders, upper back or arms, or it may trigger headaches and cause numbness, tingling or weakness in your arms.
In general, neck pain refers to pain anywhere from the area at the base of the skull into the shoulders. And technology is one of the major culprits. As a culture we put our necks through hell with our reliance on technology, which creates forward head carriage, and results in neck muscles that go into spasm and refer pain into our heads, temples, and even behind our eyes, says Brad Butler, chiropractor and author of The Blueprint for Back Pain Relief: The Essential Guide to Nonsurgical Solutions.
“The most common causes of neck pain are either postural or positional. The modern-day life style of sitting at a desk looking over a computer for multiple hours unfortunately leads to a forward head position where the skull moves forward of its placement on the first cervical vertebra,” says Lara Heimann, physical therapist and creator of LYT Style Yoga. “Every millimeter that the skull is off-center places a strain on the posterior neck muscles. These muscles on the back of the neck have a chronic stress and load on them that creates tension and pain.
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Red Flag Symptoms That Can Accompany A Stiff Neck
If a stiff neck is the result of a condition other than a strain or sprain, oftentimes other symptoms will also be present. In such cases, typically at least one other symptom will develop with or before the stiff, painful neck occurs.1
Below are red flag symptoms that could indicate a potentially serious underlying medical condition is causing the stiff neck:
- Fever, which likely signals an infection is being fought
- Headache, especially if it seems different from previous headaches in terms of duration, intensity, or accompanying symptoms
- Nausea or vomiting
- Change in mental state, which could include confusion or mood swings
- Coordination issues, such as dizziness or problems walking or writing
- Weight loss that is not part of a diet change
How Can You Prevent Neck Pain
Fix your posture to fix your neck pain. Sit or stand with your shoulders directly over your hips and your head straight. Adjust your chair or desktop so your computer monitor is at eye level. Take frequent breaks.
Donât tuck your phone between your ear and shoulder. Use a speakerphone or headset instead.
Try not to carry heavy bags with shoulder straps.
Try a different pillow if youâre waking up with a stiff neck. Some people find that a relatively flat one, or one with built-in neck support, works best. Sleeping on your back or side, not your belly, also allows your neck muscles and ligaments to get the rest they need.
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Dos And Donts For A Stiff Neck
Oftentimes, taking it easy for a day or two is all that is needed to give the necks soft tissues a chance to heal. In cases where pain is significant, an individual may want to use an over-the-counter pain medication or apply ice and/or heat therapy.
Wearing a cervical collar to immobilize a stiff neck is not advised. Rather, an individual with a stiff neck should try to stick to normal activity levels if possible, especially after the first day or two.
Stretches To Help A Stiff Neck
The key to relief for a stiff neck is proper stretching and manipulation, Dr. Bang says. Doing slow range-of-motion exercises, up and down, side to side, and from ear to ear, can help to gently stretch the neck muscles. Certain yoga poses can also help ease stiffness.
Here are some other specific stretches you can try at your desk or in the car that may help you avoid a stiff neck:
- Roll your shoulders backwards and down 10 times.
- Squeeze your shoulder blades together 10 times.
- Push your head backwards into your car head rest or hands and hold for 30 seconds.
- Bring your ear to your shoulder 10 times on each side.
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Stress Poor Sleep And Physical Ailments Over Time Can Lead To A Pain In The Neck
Everyday life isn’t kind to the neck. You may be all too familiar with that crick you get when you cradle the phone between your shoulder and ear, or the strain you feel after working at your computer.
Neck pain rarely starts overnight. It usually evolves over time. And it may be spurred by arthritis or degenerative disc disease, and accentuated by poor posture, declining muscle strength, stress, and even a lack of sleep, said Dr. Zacharia Isaac, medical director of the Comprehensive Spine Care Center at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital and director of interventional physical medicine and rehabilitation at Harvard Medical School.
The following six tips can help you find neck pain relief:
First Steps To Relieve Neck Pain
The causes of routine strain-and-sprain neck pain vary. If you wake up with a “crick” in your neck, it’s probably the sharp muscle contractions known as spasms, caused by a muscle strain. A sprain, in contrast, happens in ligamentsthe tough tissues that connect bones together. Alternatively, a tendonthe tissue that attaches muscles to bonesmay become inflamed, causing tendinitis. Basic self-help takes care of most routine neck pain flare-ups:
- Use cold to numb the early acute pain and reduce inflammation.
- Take over-the-counter pain relievers to control mild to moderate pain. These include acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen , naproxen , or aspirin.
- Use a neck collar for short periods to rest the painful muscles and tissues and ease your discomfort. “Collars have a bad reputation from people overusing them and getting weak muscles, but used a few hours here and there they can be very useful,” Dr. Shmerling says.
- Apply heateither with a heating pad or by using a warm whirlpool bath if one is availableafter a day or two, once the acute pain calms down.
Should you go to a chiropractor to get your neck “cracked”? Dr. Shmerling counsels against sudden, strenuous manipulation of the neck. “It may be fine for low back pain, but avoid it for neck pain,” he says.
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Stiff Neck Causes Symptoms And Treatment
A stiff neck is typically characterized by soreness and difficulty moving the neck, especially when trying to turn the head to the side. It may also be accompanied by a headache, neck pain, shoulder pain and/or arm pain. In order to look sideways or over the shoulder, an individual may need to turn the entire body instead of the stiff neck.
Most people are familiar with the pain and inconvenience of a stiff neck, whether it appeared upon waking up one morning or perhaps developed later in the day after some strenuous activity, such as moving furniture. In most cases, pain and stiffness go away naturally within a week. However, how an individual manages and cares for the stiff neck symptoms can affect pain levels, recovery time, and the likelihood of whether it will return.
The levator scapulae muscle may be strained throughout the course of many common, everyday activities, such as:
The cause of the stiff neck may be obvious if symptoms start right away, such as after falling during a sporting event. If a stiff neck seems to develop out of nowhere, however, it could be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause.
Stretches To Relieve A Stiff Neck
- Levator Scapula Stretch: Place your right hand behind your head and bring your chin towards the left side of your chest. Repeat the stretch with your left hand, bringing your chin towards the right side of your chest.
- Upper Trapezius Stretch: Slowly tilt your right ear to your right shoulder, and then repeat the stretch on the other side. Keep your back straight and don’t move your shoulders.
- Shoulder Rolls: Maintain proper posture and roll your shoulders backward. Repeat the stretch in a forward direction.
- Turtle Stretch: Keep your back straight, and without looking down, slowly move your head forward. Hold the position for five seconds, and then move your head backward.
Repeat each stretch about 10 times before moving on to the next one.
If your neck pain persists or gets worse despite several weeks of home remedies, you need to visit the doctor. A stiff neck may be something serious and require immediate medical attention especially if you experience pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness that spreads into the arms and hands, says Patel.
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Most Common Serious Condition With Stiff Neck
Meningitiswhich in its most dangerous form is a bacterial infection that causes the protective membranes of the brain and spinal cord to be inflamedis the most common serious condition associated with a stiff neck.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention , a fever, headache, and stiff neck are typically early symptoms of bacterial meningitis.FOOT|1] When any two of these symptoms are present together, they should be immediately checked out by a doctor.
Meningitis symptoms usually develop within a few days of exposure, and the individuals condition could worsen gradually or rapidly. Early treatment for meningitis is critical for having a good outcome. Delayed treatment could result in poor outcomes, such as hearing loss, brain damage, or even death.
It should be noted that a stiff neck is not always present with meningitis, and other symptoms could include nausea, heightened sensitivity to light or loud noises, or confusion, among others.
Meningitis is a bacterial infection that causes the protective membranes of the brain and spinal cord to become inflamed.
Visit A Physical Therapist
If your pain and stiffness persist for more than a day or two, or if it refuses to respond to your treatment choices, it is time to seek professional help.
Neck stiffness can be a symptom of bigger issues such as a serious injury.
Here at PRO~PT, we know all about muscle stiffness and how to help alleviate it. Our team of physical therapists is here to help you find relief from the pain and stiffness. With well over a dozen locations all over the Central Valley area, we are close and convenient.
We work with our patients to help them achieve the most pain-free, high-quality lifestyle possible.
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Alternate Heating And Icing Your Neck
Heat and ice can be a powerful combination for loosening tight muscles and relieving pain.
This dynamic duo works together to
- Reduce stiffness
- Alleviate pain
The heating and icing process is relatively simple and gets to work right away.
You may wonder how to get rid of a stiff neck and headache with heat. This remedy is surprisingly simpleall you need is a towel and some warm water.
To make a good heat pack:
Note: You should not use heat within the first 48 hours of an injury.
Heat helps alleviate pain by bringing blood to the area and loosening the muscles. And, it is a great way to help get rid of a stiff neck. When alternated with ice, this treatment is even more effective.
Icing your stiff neck is a great way to:
- Reduce swelling
- Relieve pain by numbing the area
There are two great ways to ice your neck:
You should not use a cold compress to help with the pain if you have certain conditions such as