What causes neck pain?
Your neck contains bones, joints, tendons, ligaments, muscles and nerves. Any of these components can hurt. Pain in the jaw, head or shoulders may also spread to the neck and cause pain. Conversely, problems in your neck can also make other parts of your body hurt, such as your head, upper back, shoulders or arms.
The commonest cause of neck pain is still muscle and ligament strain, especially from poor posture, or from an injury. Wear and tear from old age or arthritis can also cause neck pain.
What are the symptoms of neck pain?
The pain may be aching and constant in nature. It can also be described as cramping, stabbing or intermittent. The description of your pain is important because it can help your doctor find the cause.
If your nerves are involved in your neck pain, you may experience numbness, tingling, loss of sensation or weakness in your arms or legs.
What is the treatment for neck pain?
Most neck pain secondary to muscle strain respond well to common pain medications such as paracetamol, aspirin, and anti-inflammatory drugs.
Your doctor may also recommend:
- Physical therapy. Heat, ice or similar treatments combined with muscle stretching and strengthening exercises enhance the structures that support your neck.
- Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS). Electrodes placed on your skin near the painful area in the neck deliver tiny electrical impulses that may relieve pain.
- Epidural steroid injection. If there is evidence of nerve root irritation causing pain, your doctor may perform an epidural injection to administer steroids into the space around the nerve roots to reduce inflammation.
You may also be referred to an orthopaedic surgeon for a surgical assessment if necessary.