The stiffness, tenderness, burning, and soreness of neck pain can make doing everyday tasks difficult. Neck pain can be caused by a number of things. Some of the most common include:
" Poor posture
" Sleeping in awkward positions
" Degenerative disc disease
" Spinal stenosis
" Impact injuries
" Built up tension
" Staring at a computer
" Holding the neck in one position for too long
" Weak midsection muscles
A physician or chiropractor will diagnose neck conditions by asking a series of questions, and doing a physical examination. If the doctor deems it necessary he will approve an x-ray, CAT scan, or an MRI to determine the exact cause of your neck pain.
How to Relieve and Treat Neck Pain
If you suffer from pain in the neck, there are several treatment options available to ease the discomfort.
Over the counter (OTC) pain medications such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, naproxen, and aspirin can effectively rid your neck of uncomfortable pain. If taken improperly, OTC pain meds can have undesirable side effects that include ulcers, stomach bleeding, and damage to the liver.
OTC medications can also cause dangerous drug interactions, so if you are taking drugs to manage other conditions, consult a doctor before taking over the counter pain killers for neck pain.
Massage therapy relieves neck pain by improving blood circulation, loosening knotted muscles and releasing natural pain killers in the body. Placing an ice pack or cold compress on the offending area can reduce inflammation and ease pain. Heat can also be used in conjunction with ice to relieve muscle contractions.
Heat can aggravate inflammation, so wait at least two days after the initial injury before applying heat to a neck injury.
Since built up tension can contribute to pain in the neck, stress reduction techniques can help alleviate the pain. Meditation and deep breathing exercises such as those practiced during yoga can relax tense muscles and release stress-relieving hormones in the body.
Neck pain can be prevented by making a few simple changes in your lifestyle.
Moderate physical activity such as aerobics, walking, running, swimming, and biking can relieve the stress and tension that contributes to neck pain. Exercising regularly can also strengthen the muscles in the torso and help keep the spine stable.
If you have a job that requires you to sit for prolonged periods of time, take frequent breaks from sitting to get up and stretch your neck and back. Keep your head and neck properly aligned when you're sitting and standing, and adjust your computer screen so that it is eye level to prevent neck strain.
Also avoid exercises that require the neck to bend forward such as crunches, neck rotation, and sit ups; these types of exercises will only make neck pain worse.
Persistent, severe neck pain can be the result of rare conditions such as spinal tumors, spinal cord compression, and spine infections, so if the pain in your neck is accompanied by decreased muscle or brain function, contact a doctor immediately.
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