Acute Neck Pain
The neck, or cervical spine, is the most flexible part of the spine, providing the greatest range of motion. It is also easy to injure, because it is not well protected by muscles.
Daily stress, poor posture, trauma, and wear and tear from overuse and aging are the most common sources of neck pain.
Severe trauma to the neck may cause a fracture, creating risk for permanent paralysis. For possible neck or other spinal injuries from a severe blow or other trauma, keep the injured person still.
Do not move the person without a back board or cervical collar.
The way you sleep at night can affect your neck during the day. A soft mattress, pillows that force your neck into awkward angles, and uncomfortable sleeping position may be to blame if you awaken with a crick in the neck. But the tossing and turning of a bad night’s rest may be less to blame than awakening suddenly from a good sound sleep. A sudden jerk of the neck upon awakening can leave neck muscles tight and sore.
Poor sitting and standing posture slumped shoulders, a drooping head, or rounding of the lower back can cause neck pain. But bad body mechanics are more than poor posture. Repeated tasks, such as holding the phone with your shoulder or always carrying a heavy briefcase or shoulder bag same side of the body, can also cause muscle stiffness or imbalance.
The neck and upper back muscles often among the first to become tense when a person is under emotional stress. Whenever these muscles remain tight a long time, they may ache, become sore and even cause headaches.
Neck Sprains and Strains
The term “whiplash” is often used to refer to neck sprains and strains that result when the neck is forced suddenly forward, backward, or both, such as from a rear-end car collision. But contact sports, a fall, or a sudden twist can cause similar injuries. Pain from neck sprains and strains may spread into the shoulders, upper back, and arms, and some times as far as the legs. Pain may remain for 6 weeks or longer, but generally improves with normal use.
Neck pain can often be relieved of prevented with a few adjustments to the way we work and rest. Even if the pain caused by an injury or a worsening condition, self-care can often provide relief.
Self Care Steps
If you wake up often with a sore neck, consider sleeping in a different position, getting a new mattress and box spring, or putting a 3/4-inch plywood board between the mattress and box spring for extra support.
If you sleep on your side, choose a pillow that allows your head to rest comfortably centered between your shoulders. If you sleep on your back, choose a pillow that doesn’t push your chin toward your chest. A special cervical-support pillow or a rolled towel pinned around your neck can also help you position your spine correctly. Avoid sleeping on your stomach.
Learn to relax. If daily stress makes your neck and upper back muscles tense, take time out to relax.
If your neck or upper back muscles feel tight and sore, especially from stress, ask a friend to massage the area for a few minutes.
The spine naturally curves in at the neck, out at the upper back, and in again at the Lower back. An easy way to improve your posture is to focus on keeping the natural curve at the lower back. When you do this, the rest of the spine the tends to pull into place, straightening your shoulders and head as well. Be sure, however, that your effort to “straighten up” doesn’t cause Your neck or abdomen to “stick out.”
Use a telephone headset if you spend a lot of time on the phone. Keep your briefcase or purse as light as possible and routinely switch carrying sides. When either is packed full, try to distribute the weight evenly on each side of your body by spliting the Contents into two bags or briefcases. Hold reading materials and place computer screen at eye level; don’t bend over your work. Type With your elbows, hips, and knees at 90 degrees and make sure you have good low-back support.
Ice a sore neck 10 to 15 minutes several times a day to relieve pain and inflammation. A bag of frozen peas or corn makes a great cold pack for the neck. Switching between heat and ice may also work.
A warm shower or heating pad on top of a moist warm towel can help loosen sore, tight muscles. Apply heat for 20 minutes, three times a day starting no sooner than 2 days after injury. But ice may be better for relieving pain even long after an injury, especially if muscle spasms are present. Follow with gentle stretching.
Take anti-inflammatory drugs for pain, If pain persists, your medical provider may prescribe other drugs.
Take a load off. When pain is at its worst, rest. Lie flat on your back for an hour or so with a fairly flat pillow supporting your head. Extended bed rest, however, can make neck problems worse by allowing muscles to weaken from lack of use.
After exercise, cool down in a healthy posture. One of the best and easiest times to assume a healthy posture is when your muscles and joints are loose after exercise.
Signs and Symptoms that needs care
Pain after a sudden twist or blow, or the head being thrown forward or backward.
Burning, shooting pain; shoulder weakness; or loss of feeling in shoulder after trauma that caused neck and shoulder to twist in opposite directions at the same time.
Stiff, sore neck with fever and headache.
Any severe trauma or blow to the head or neck.
Neck pain and temperature of a level you believe to be a fever.
Pain is the same or worse after 7 to 10 days of self-care.
Stiff, sore neck upon awakening.
Muscle tension and pain, especially while working or under stress.