Neck pain and stiffness can include nerves, muscles, and bones in the neck, shoulders, and upper back, and can cause difficulty in normal movement and activities. Most neck discomfort goes away with rest, lifestyle changes, or pain relievers. But neck pain and stiffness that is severe, including weakness, swollen glands, or does not go away after self-medication, requires prompt medical evaluation. This article will look at the causes of neck and shoulder pain.
Causes of neck and shoulder pain
People who experience unexpected trauma due to an event such as a car accident may develop neck stiffness and pain. Improper lifting or exercise techniques can strain the neck muscles, which can lead to neck stiffness and soreness. Injuries to the upper back during a fall can also cause neck pain.
The flu can cause pain or muscle aches and stiffness throughout the body, including the neck. People with infections such as bacterial or viral meningitis may develop symptoms such as neck stiffness or pain in addition to fever and confusion. Bacterial meningitis is a life-threatening condition that requires prompt treatment.How to get rid of a pinched nerve in your neck
People with temporomandibular joint disorders may develop neck pain due to shifting, clenching, or crushing of the teeth. Migraine headaches can cause neck pain and stiffness during a headache. People with a heart attack may experience neck pain with other symptoms such as shortness of breath, dizziness, and sweating.
People who use a cell phone and hold it between their ears and shoulders may experience neck stiffness or pain. Carrying a heavy bag on your shoulder or in your arms can also be one of the causes of neck and shoulder pain. People whose computer screens or keyboards are not ergonomically positioned can also cause neck pain and stiffness. How to treat a pinched nerve in your shoulder
Standing or sitting in one position for several hours can cause neck pain and stiffness. People who sleep on their stomach or use too many pillows may have a sore or stiff neck due to an unnatural sleeping position. Slouching or hunching over can also cause neck stiffness.
People with osteoarthritis in the spine may develop neck pain and stiffness, which is worse when standing up or not moving for a long time. A displacement or hernia in the neck or upper back can also be one of the causes of neck and shoulder pain. People with spurs (bony growths) in the upper spine may develop neck pain and stiffness, and tingling or numbness in the hands.
Try this instead of medications for neck and shoulder pain
Neck pain is the main reason for doctor visits and is more common in women than men. It is often a response to overexertion, poor posture, stress, injury, or sleeping in the wrong position. It can also occur from trauma when the neck experiences rapid, strong back and forth motion (cartilaginous), or from arthritis. Shoulder pain without neck pain tends to stem from an injury, such as due to deformities or tendinitis.
Exercises that strengthen and stretch the muscles in the neck have been shown in studies to work better than medications to relieve neck and shoulder pain. Apply heat for 10-15 minutes periodically during the first day or so after the injury. Support your neck while sleeping by lying on your back with one or more pillows under your knees and a small pillow under your head. This keeps your neck and head in a neutral position. If you need extra relief, try over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or naproxen.
Physical therapy with exercise can help with persistent neck and shoulder pain. Research shows that relief can occur in just 1-3 sessions. Work with a physical therapist on your posture – for example, how to improve the position of your head and neck when talking on the phone or using the computer. Working with a cognitive-behavioral therapist can teach you relaxation and stress relief techniques to reduce stress-related pain.
What can you do yourself
Stay as active as possible. Try to go to work and keep track of your normal daily activities – bed rest is not necessary. If you have been given a neck collar, try not to use it for more than a day or two. Avoid driving if you cannot turn your head quickly. Remember, neck pain is rarely caused by a serious illness and often goes away within a week.
If you have neck pain that lasts for a longer period, it is recommended that you consult with your GP or physical therapist.
In addition, the following symptoms may indicate a more serious problem than simple mechanical neck pain and require you to consult your doctor:
- Concomitant illness such as unexplained weight loss.
- Ongoing soreness or pain in the bones of the neck (vertebrae).
- The pain just keeps on steadily getting worse despite treatment.
- If affected: One or both of your hands, such as persistent numbness, weakness, or clumsiness.