Avoid a Pain in the Neck
Worried about neck pain? We’ve got tips to minimize or avoid neck soreness.
Everyone agrees: if it’s a choice between having neck pain or not having it, we’d rather avoid it entirely. Our neck is a complicated structure; every time we nod in agreement or turn our head to glance over our shoulder, we are engaging 14 nerves and eight pairs of joints. Neck strain occurs when the tendons, muscles, and ligaments in the neck are irritated. Some causes of neck pain are not in our control. Age-related wear and tear, for example, is responsible for the neck joint arthritis affecting 65 percent of 65-year-olds.
Tips to curb neck pain
There are many things we can do to minimize the risk of neck-related aches, including the following:
- Make minor changes at bedtime. Sleep on your side or your back, and try using a feather pillow or “memory foam” pillow that conforms easily to the shape of your neck and head.
- Adjust how you do screen time. If you use a tablet computer, place the tablet on a table, adjust it to a comfortable viewing angle, and get up and take a break from your work every 15 minutes.
- Exercise. Whether you want to avoid neck problems, or address an ache in your neck, there is mounting scientific evidence that stretching and muscle strengthening are more effective than rest and pain medication. If you are exercising to relieve neck pain, work with a physical therapist who can guide you through appropriate exercises.
- Drive cautiously. Whiplash injury is a common cause of neck pain. Good driving habits, and abiding by seatbelt laws, can help keep you out of harm’s way.
- Avoid contact sports. Although we associate whiplash with motor vehicle accidents, any abrupt movement or a sudden extension and flexion of your neck can cause this damage.
Watch for symptoms of a neck injury
If you should injure your neck, symptoms may present immediately after the injury, but it can also take several days for the full effect of the injury to be felt. In addition to pain, neck injury may be accompanied by stiffness, headache, dizziness, or uncomfortable burning or prickling sensations. Some people experience memory loss, difficulty concentrating, irritability, or sleep disturbance.
When to see a specialist
Any time these symptoms develop and do not improve after three days, it’s a good idea to see a specialist. Summit Orthopedics is home to the area’s top spine specialists for neck pain treatment. If you ever experience the red flag symptoms of serious injury, like pain or numbness radiating into an arm and especially down into the fingers, don’t wait. These symptoms signal possible permanent damage and require medical attention from a specialist within 48 hours.
The good news
Most neck injury, however, is not that serious. The majority of neck strain injuries pain clear up within a few days or weeks. With some preventative attention, you may be able to avoid neck pain completely.
Summit Orthopedics offers comprehensive spine expertise
Our back specialists diagnose spine problems and design custom treatment plans built on a conservative, nonsurgical approach. Most patients find relief through treatments including guided injections, specialized physical therapy, biofeedback, exercise, activity modification, and medication. When conservative care does not relieve symptoms, our highly skilled surgeons offer proven, evidence-based surgical options. Together with you, we will determine the right course of action.
Summit has convenient locations across the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area, serving Minnesota and western Wisconsin. We have state-of-the-art centers for comprehensive orthopedic care in Eagan, MN, Plymouth, MN, Vadnais Heights, MN, and Woodbury, MN, as well as additional community clinics throughout the metro and southern Minnesota.
Spine related resources
- Read the article How Muscle Injury Causes Neck And Back Pain
- Visit our Spine Exercise Library for options to help ease neck and back pain
- See Summit’s treatment options for neck, back, and spine care
- Check out additional information on Summit’s approach to spine care
More resources for you
When we have back pain, we want to know why. Dr. Wahlquist explains that this simple question can have a complex answer.
One of the causes of arm or leg pain is radiculopathy, commonly referred to as a pinched nerve. Although not all of the causes of radiculopathy can be corrected by preventative measures, knowing the risk factors can help us take steps to keep our back healthy.
Exercise is one of the best preventative measures we can take to maintain good health. Generally, exercise increases physical strength and improves longevity. Specific exercises can also address and improve many types of spine pain.