What Is Neck Pain?
Many people complain of neck discomfort. It can range from mild stiffness to agonizing pain that shoots through your shoulders and down your arms.
How Does It Happen?
Neck pain has a number of sources. You may experience muscles strains if you spend hours at a computer each day or if you drive a car for several hours. You can feel neck pain if you suffer from osteoarthritis or if you have been in an accident and experienced whiplash.
Other causes of neck pain include bone spurs and a herniated disc. Neck pain may also be a symptom of a larger issue, such as rheumatoid arthritis, meningitis, and certain types of cancer.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms?
Where and how your neck hurts can indicate what the underlying problem is. Here are some serious symptoms that require medical attention:
Numbness in your arms or hands
Shooting pain through your shoulders and arms
Loss of strength in your arms
Being unable to touch your chin to your chest
A change in bowel or bladder habits
How Is It Diagnosed?
In some cases, your doctor can diagnose your problem just by asking you a few questions and doing a physical exam. In other cases, he or she will use x-rays, computerized tomography (CT) scans, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to review the affected area. Other diagnostic tools can include a nerve test called electromyography (EMG), spinal tap, and blood tests.
How Is It Treated?
If your neck pain does not respond well over-the-counter medications, your doctor may prescribe stronger analgesics or muscle relaxants. He or she may also try pain management injections near the affected site.
Other treatments include wearing a neck collar to support your neck, using traction to stretch and immobilize your neck, and undergoing physical therapy to learn appropriate neck exercises. In rare cases, you may require surgery to relive nerve issues.
What Is the Prognosis?
If you take good care of your neck, the prognosis is usually quite good. Take breaks, giving yourself time away from the computer or steering wheel. Maintain good posture and avoid stress on your neck. Talk to your doctor about your specific condition to determine what your options are.