Neck pain can occur from something as simple as sleeping at an abnormal angle to something as intense as a traumatic car accident.
No matter what the cause, it can seriously interfere with the simplest activities—like turning your head. Also, when your neck feels out of place, the muscles all down your back may try to make up for it by pulling on different muscles and causing pain all the way down the spine. The sooner you get it treated, the better off your skeletal and muscular systems will be in the long run. Here is a look at common treatments for neck pain.
Sometimes you may be able to relieve your neck pain just by adding a few simple exercises into your daily routine. It doesn’t have to be an hour-long, full-body workout; just take ten minutes out of your day to engage in gentle exercises that improve your neck’s strength and flexibility. Even a gentle workout will help your whole body gain strength. The healthier your body, the better it responds to things like stress— which can cause neck pain all on its own.
In more extreme cases, a physical therapist may be a better option than using generalized exercises. A physical therapist can help you discover positions and activities specifically suited to your particular pain, while generalized exercises could be making severe neck pain worse instead of better if you don’t know what’s really going on.
In other situations, it may be a better choice to visit your family doctor or a doctor who specializes in orthopedic neck care. If you’re experiencing severe neck pain, at-home methods may not do the trick. If you’ve tried heating pads, cold packs, rest, and/or a neck brace to no avail, a doctor may be able to provide you with prescription medication that will inhibit the signals of pain to the brain. Steroids can be effective, in oral or injectable form. For mild pain, over-the-counter, nonsteroidal antiinflammatories (NSAIDs), like naproxen or ibuprofen, can help relieve both pain and inflammation. However, long term use of NSAIDs can come with side effects. Severe neck pain may require stronger medication, like a muscle relaxant that inhibits pain signals to the brain.
Surgeries are reserved as a last alternative, because, unlike most surgeries, neck surgery comes with no guarantees. Situations in which severe neck pain may be relieved by surgery include those when pain is caused by the following:
Cervical radiculopathy: Bone spurs or herniated disks pinch the nerve root.
Spinal stenosis: The spinal cord grows narrow, crowding the nerves.
Degenerative disk disease: The cushioning between spinal discs disintegrates; herniation and fragmentation may occur.
Some people find alternative therapies to be very effective for chronic, or even occasional, neck pain. Acupuncture originated in China thousands of years ago and involves pricking the skin and muscles in various places of the body to relieve pain. Chiropractors are doctors for neck pain who use manual adjustment of the skeletal system to realign bones and release muscle tension. Standard medical practices can generally be complemented with these alternative therapies, however, it is important to keep all of those involved in your medical care aware of any and all treatments you’re undergoing.
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