Neck pain is probably one of the most encountered types of discomfort in the human body. While most of the times the reason behind such pain is a strain or something similar, some other times chronic neck pain can be caused by completely different things. This also means that a different type of treatment may apply.
Like with any other diseases or medical condition out there, chronic neck pain should be diagnosed as soon as possible by a medical professional. This will ensure the safety of the patient and the fact that treatment will be administered sooner, rather than later (which may also increase its effectiveness).
This article is meant to explore the 5 most common types of chronic neck pain and what stands behind them. Hopefully, the information given here will be helpful and it will give you the answers you need.
1- Neck pain that is extended towards the arms. This type of neck pain is usually caused by a cervical herniated disc or by foraminal stenosis affecting a nerve in the neck. Depending on how strong the pain is, on whether or not it responds to treatment and on how much the cervical nerve is affected, a doctor will decide if there is any need for a surgical intervention. In most of the cases though, the pain will respond to treatment within 6-12 weeks and there will be no need for surgery.
2- Neck pain that feels a lot worse in the morning than it feels in the evening is usually encountered in patients with osteoarthritis. These people feel better when they can move their necks, and since they do not do it during the night, mornings feel very painful. This pain is caused by the degeneration of the cartilage holding the bone, which eventually leads to a lot of friction and to a lot of pain for the patient.
3- Low-level chronic neck pain can be caused by a lot of things, including by certain activities that may strain the neck. This type of pain usually lasts for more than a few months and the symptoms can be related to the level of activity the patients has: the more he/she uses his/her shoulders and neck, the more the pain will persist.
4- When neck pain is accompanied by arm pain and the patient is not capable of coordinating his/her arms and legs, then the cause of the pain may be a condition called cervical spinal stenosis with myelopathy. The symptoms in this case usually evolve slowly from a cervical herniated disc or from a degenerative change that occurred in the joints at a certain time. In most of the cases, symptoms stagnate for years, they evolved and then they stagnate again. Treatment for this condition is available, but when it becomes serious, the doctor will recommend surgery, as this is the only way in which the spinal canal can be decompressed.
5- Cervical foraminal stenosis can cause the type of neck pain that develops slowly, over the years and appears when the patient performs certain activities or stays in a certain position. Aging of the neck joints is one of the most common causes for this condition and it can be diagnosed in a number of ways (MRI, CT scan, myelogram, and so on). Although the first thing doctors recommend is a combination of medication, exercise and injections, in case the condition is not responsive to these, there will be the need of performing surgery to give the nerve more room (which will eventually decrease the level of pain the patient experiences).
Of course, neck pain can be caused by other medical conditions as well, but they are less encountered. One such example would be an infection at the neck level that may cause pain in the patient.
To make sure that the cause of your chronic neck pain is elucidated, you should visit a medical professional. He/she will be able to examine you and tell you which is the medical condition that is causing pain in your neck area. The doctor will perform a physical examination (looking for things such as tingling, numbness or weakness in the hands) and, if the pain persists, he/she will also have to perform a series of imaging tests (such as X-rays, MRI and CT scan). Also, if the pain has been caused by an injury, such tests will be mandatory as well.
Typical treatment in the case of the neck pain include exercises, applying heating pads on the area that hurts, taking drugs (such as Aspirin, Tylenol or Ibuprofen, for instance) and applying ice on the area. Massage and yoga may also be recommended by the doctor, as well as avoiding neck straining as much as possible (which would obviously make the condition even worse).
Neck pain can be avoided through various methods, and one of them is being very careful about your position during the day. Slouching, not sitting straight and not having your feet flat on the floor when you sit are common things that eventually lead to chronic neck pain.
Furthermore, sitting at the computer for extended periods of time can also damage your neck, so make sure that you take small breaks to stretch ever now and again (preferably, every hour). Make sure that your bed and your pillow are properly adjusted as well and do take into consideration purchasing such items that are of a higher quality.
Believe it or not, smoking can also prevent you from ameliorating your chronic neck pain. Because it slows down the blood supply and it makes the tissue repair process more difficult, smoking is completely forbidden when you want to relieve yourself from chronic neck pain.
Stress can also slow down the healing process, so try to avoid it as much as possible. Learn to practice relaxation methods and try to work out more (but do not try extensive work outs that may strain you even more). Generally speaking, changing your life style into a healthier one can be of an enormous help when you want to relieve yourself from neck pain.