What is a neck pain?
Neck pain is one of the most common sign/symptom we encounter in our daily life. Another common problem encountered is back pain, but we will talk about it in detail in another article. So neck and back are very vulnerable when it comes to our body and may lead to severe disabilities and impairments if not taken care of well. However, most of the times, spinal pain may not have a serious cause and effect.
Neck pain usually has a very trivial or common cause attached to it, but we land up worrying more, as we do not understand the causes well. The more serious causes usually have other red flags attached to it and can be easily identified. So stop worrying, keep calm, and observe the signs/symptoms carefully. Let’s now discuss some of the red flags:
- Neck pain bothering for more than 6-8 weeks
- Pain not easing up, and rather becoming severe and worsening
Any of the below-mentioned sign/symptom:
- Inability to forward-bend head (nuchal rigidity), and/or a fierce headache, fever and altered mental state can be a cause of meningitis
- Severe headache associated with/without nausea/vomiting/dizziness
- Throbbing pain in the neck, sometimes associated with pain in temples/occiput (behind the skull), usually on one side, can be caused by a tear in the artery supplying the brain, and can cause a “stroke”. This is usually acute, and should immediately be checked in the ER
- Light tapping on the spinal cord causing increased pain/exaggerated symptoms
- Fevers or chills with idiopathic cause
- Spinal cord distress leading to manifestations in the limbs causing numbness, tingling, heaviness, loss of sensation, loss of coordination, and/or shooting pain
- Gradual progressive symptoms or marked stiffness of other joints can be causes of auto-immune diseases and likely have a pre-existing family history.
There can be other causes as well which warrant immediate attention in an ER. This includes an accident or other injuries directly involving the neck, or an indirect cause leading to sudden strain to the neck (a whiplash injury).
Also, chronic steroid use, drug abuse, and/or HIV can cause neck pain and should be dealt with immediately.
Understanding the false alarms, rationalizing and treating it right!!
The usual sharp, shooting or stabbing neck pains usually not a reason to worry most of the times. Sharp or stabbing pains usually indicate the absence of more severe causes. These usually have a minor source of irritation that typically resolves in a few days to several weeks, with minimal self-help measures and care. Any minor nerve irritation in the complex mesh of nerves around our neck can lead to shooting pains and usually do not indicate a more severe neurological problem. These minor factors can cause discomfort, but with proper care, and proper use of body mechanics and exercises, they can heal in a few weeks.
Another problem that raises false alarms is neck stiffness. Neck stiffness is rarely dangerous, unless it is due to meningitis as discussed above, which will present with other signs and symptoms as well. Neck stiffness is usually just a diffuse pain of the musculoskeletal system. It is caused by irritated structures surrounding the neck, adding up to discomfort. This can also be caused due to protective muscle spasm, which is the brain’s reflexogenic attempt to prevent further strain to the injured tissues. This can be caused due to improper positioning and posture and can be acute or chronic. Icing, stretching, exercises and massage often relax the stiff/spasmodic muscles.
The worst thing we usually do when we have neck pain is over-worry. This leads to a dent in our mental well-being along the pain altering the physical well-being, thus affecting our overall health. We need to first observe and understand the signs and symptoms carefully and then decide on the further steps towards a healthy pain-free life.
-In another post, we will get back to you with the common exercises, stretches and remedies you can try as the first line of treatment without panicking at the first place, so keep reading.