Neck pain is a nuisance in any of the structures of the neck, which include muscles and nerves, as well as spinal vertebrae and the cushioning disks between them. Neck pain may also come from other areas of the the total body support pillow near the neck, the shoulders, jaw, head and upper arms. When your neck is sore, you may have difficulty moving, especially to one side, which is described by many as having a stiff neck. If neck pain involves nerves (for example, significant muscle spasm pinching on a nerve or a slipped disk pressing on a nerve), you may feel numbness, tingling or weakness in the arm, hand or elsewhere. Common cause of neck pain due to muscle strain or tension, usually daily activities are responsible. Such activities include bending over a desk for hours, having poor posture while watching TV or reading, placing the computer monitor too high or too low, sleeping in an uncomfortable position, or twisting and turning the neck in a jarring manner while exercising. Traumatic events like car accidents or falls can cause severe neck injuries like vertebral fractures, whiplash, blood vessel and even paralysis. Apply heat or ice to the painful area. A good method is to use ice for the first 48 to 72 hours and then apply heat. The latter can be applied with hot showers, hot packs or heating pads. Be careful not to fall asleep with a heating pad on. Perform range of motion exercises slow: up and down, side to side and ear to ear, to gently stretch the neck muscles. It may be necessary to reduce the activity only for the first couple of days, then slowly resume your normal activities. Avoid activities that involve heavy lifting or twisting the back or neck during the first 6 weeks after the pain begins. After 2 to 3 weeks, slowly resume exercise. A physical therapist can help you decide when to begin stretching and strengthening exercises and how to do. Fever and headache, and if the neck is so stiff that you can not touch chin to your chest. This may indicate meningitis. Call your local emergency number (such as 911 in the U. S. ) or get to a hospital. You have symptoms of a heart attack, such as difficulty breathing, sweating, nausea, vomiting or pain in the arm or jaw. The neck pain was caused by a fall, blow or injury (if you can not move arm or hand, have someone call your local emergency number such as 911). The doctor will perform a physical examination and ask detailed questions about neck pain, including how often it occurs and its intensity. Other questions may include:. These questions help the doctor determine the cause of neck pain and are likely to quickly get better with simple measures such as ice, mild painkillers, physical therapy and exercise. Most often, the neck pain will improve within 4 to 6 weeks using these methods. The doctor will probably not order any tests during the first visit, unless you have symptoms or a history suggestive of a tumor, infection, fracture or a severe neurological disorder. In that case, you can do the following tests:. If the pain is due to muscle spasm or a pinched nerve, your doctor may prescribe a muscle relaxant and possibly a stronger pain reliever. The prescription medicines are not necessarily better than the OTC. The doctor may prescribe a neck collar or, if there is nerve damage, may refer the patient to consult a neurologist or neurosurgeon. Learn stretching exercises for the neck and upper body. The Stretch every day, especially before and after exercise. A physical therapist can be helpful in this regard. Ensure good posture, especially when sitting at a desk most of the day, keeping a back support. Adjust the computer monitor at eye level, which prevents you from continually looking up or down. Use a headset when on the telephone, especially if the fact of answering or using the phone is a main part of the job. Evaluate your sleeping conditions. Make sure your pillow is providing proper support and comfort for the neck and head, and is likely to require a special pillow. Also make sure the mattress is firm enough. Young IA, Michener LA, Cleland JA, Aguilera AJ, Snyder AR. Manual therapy, exercise, and traction for cervical radiculopathy with Patients: a randomized clinical trial. Phys There. 2009 Jul; 89 (7) :632-42. Epub 2009 May 21. Erratum in: Phys There. 2010 May; 90 (5): 825. Phys There. 2009 Nov; 89 (11) :1254-5. Graham N, Gross A, Goldsmith CH, Klaber Moffett J, Haines T, Burnie SJ, et al. Mechanical traction for neck pain With or Without radiculopathy. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2008; (3): CD006408. Version Reviewed By: ADAM Editorial Team: David Zieve, MD, MHA, and David R. Eltz. Previously reviewed by C. Benjamin Ma, MD, Assistant Professor, Chief, Sports Medicine and Shoulder Service, UCSF Dept of Orthopaedic Surgery (10/07/2009). The information herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. Please consult a licensed physician for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. If a medical emergency, call 911. Links to other sites are provided for information purposes only, does not mean that they approve. © 1997-2011 ADAM, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited. . . .
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