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Chronic Neck Pain

Do you lean over a computer every day? Or maybe you're hunching over your workbench for the better part of the day? Either way, you may have noticed that you're having neck pain and your posture seems to be a little poor. Neck muscles can be strained from practicing poor posture and ultimately cause pain and discomfort in your neck.

Neck pain alone rarely indicates a serious problem. However, if accompanied by hand or arm weakness, shooting pains into your shoulder going down your arm, or numbness, you should seek medical attention. 

Your neck, also known as your cervical spine, is an interconnected system of bones, joints, nerves, and muscles that allows for providing the support and mobility needed to move your head and can be painful at times. 

How Is Chronic Neck Pain Classified?

Neck pain comes with a wide range of symptoms, from minor discomfort that can easily be ignored to unbearable pain that can disrupt your day-to-day activities, including getting yourself dressed, concentrating, or even your ability to get a good night's sleep. Neck pain can also cause your neck to become stiff, significantly decreasing your range of movement. Neck pain and its duration are mainly classified as:

  • Acute — Pain lasting less than four weeks
  • Subacute — Pain lasting from four to 12 weeks
  • Chronic — Pain lasting three months or more

What Are Common Symptoms Associated With Chronic Neck Pain?

Typically, neck pain will include at least one of the following signs and symptoms:

  • Neck Stiffness — Difficulty and soreness when attempting to move your head from side to side.
  • Sharp Pain — A stabbing or stinging like a sharp pain that may be localized to one spot but happens typically in your lower neck.
  • Overall Soreness — This discomfort is generally felt in a broader area or region of the neck. It is described as tender or achy, not sharp.
  • Radicular Pain — Pain that radiates alongside a nerve that goes from your neck to your shoulder and arm, that may feel similar to burning or searing pain.
  • Cervical Radiculopathy. — Neurological shortfalls, including problems with strength, reflexes, or sensation, in your arm could be endured due to compression of the nerve root.
  • Unable to Grip or Lift Objects — During times when your arm or fingers go weak and numb. 
  • Headaches — When your neck pain affects the interconnected nerves and muscles connected to your head, it can cause headaches, including tension headache, cervicogenic headache, and occipital neuralgia

What Causes Chronic Neck Pain?

Many impediments can cause neck pain. If you have discomfort alongside nerve corridors in your neck, it can cause pain within your head, shoulder, hand, or arm. Also, pain can radiate to other areas below your neck, including your legs, when there is irritation in your spinal cord. Osteoarthritis is another common reason for neck pain. Neck pain causes include:

  • Muscle Strains — Being on your computer or smartphone, or even reading in bed for extended amounts of time, can overuse your muscles and cause muscle strains. 
  • Tattered Joints — Your neck joints are no different from any other joint in your body and will incur wear and tear over time. Osteoarthritis, for instance, can cause the cartilage between your bones to deteriorate, which ultimately results in bone spurs in your body that will be painful and affect your joint motion.
  • Injuries — Whiplash injuries, typically from backward/forward head jerking during an auto accident, can cause the soft tissues of your neck to strain.
  • Diseases — Specific diseases like cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, and meningitis can trigger neck pain.

Are there Risk Factors for Chronic Neck Pain?

Neck pain can disrupt your sleep, getting dressed, and even your work, or any other activity, including driving, that requires turning your head. If neck pain does not go away, it could be a more serious underlying issue that could cause complications if left untreated.

If neck pain is severe, signs and symptoms could indicate a compromised nerve root, spinal cord, or underlying ailment. These are "red flag" types of signs and symptoms and could also include:

  • Chills
  • Fever
  • Imbalance
  • Lack of coordination
  • Radiating tingling pain (into your arms or legs)

Can Chronic Neck Pain Be Prevented?

Nearly all neck pain can be attributable to poor posture, along with wear, tear, and age. To prevent neck pain, try to keep your head centered and in line with your spine. Consider implementing the following tips as part of your daily routine to help stave off neck pain:

  • Practice Good Posture — Make sure that your shoulders and hips are aligned, and your ears should also be aligned with your shoulders when you're sitting or standing. 
  • Take Regular Breaks — If you have to sit for long periods, get up and stretch regularly. Take regular breaks to stretch your neck, shoulders, and legs to get the blood flowing.
  • Make Some Adjustments — If you work on a computer, your monitor should be at eye level, and your knees should be somewhat lower than your hips, and armrests should support your arms. 
  • Don't Tuck Your Phone — Resist tucking your phone in between your shoulder and your ear when talking. Instead, consider using a headset or speakerphone.
  • Quit Smoking — Smoking can also put you at risk of developing neck pain.
  • No Heavy Straps — Abstain from carrying purses or bags with over-the-shoulder straps, as the weight can put a strain on your neck.
  • Find A Good Sleeping Position — When you go to bed, your body should align your head and neck. Try using a small pillow beneath your neck and laying on your back with elevated thighs on pillows, which flattens your spinal muscles.

How is Chronic Neck Pain Diagnosed and Treated?

Your doctor will perform an examination and take your medical history. Your doctor will check for numbness, tenderness, and muscle weakness; then, they will measure the range in which you can move your head up, down and side to side. Your pain specialist may perform imaging tests to find the cause of your neck pain better. For instance:

  • MRI
  • X-rays
  • CT scan

Other tests could include:

See The Best Neck Pain Specialist in San Diego

Neck pain typically diminishes within a few days; however, it could signal a more serious issue if your pain is persistent. Pain specialists at The Pain Center, San Diego, can help diagnose your pain and help bring you the relief you've been looking for. Your Pain Stops Here! So go ahead and contact us today to start your journey to a more pain-free life. 

CONTACT THE PAIN CENTER SAN DIEGO

Our entire practice revolves around helping patients feel better. Pain is a fact of life until it interferes with the joys of living. Sandra Thompson, MD, and The Pain Center San Diego have innovative and comprehensive solutions to all forms of discomfort.

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