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.
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