NECK PAIN AND STIFFNESS
The head is supported by the neck, which is made up of seven bones (vertebrae) stacked one on top of the other. The vertebrae are cushioned by discs of cartilage and bound together with ligaments. Muscles provide movement and additional support. The neck is very mobile, which means it is less stable than other areas of the body and more susceptible to injury. Trauma, poor posture and degenerative diseases, such as arthritis, are the most common causes of neck pain. Shoulder movements are very closely related to the neck and both neck and shoulder pain can be successfully treated with physiotherapy.
OTHER SYMPTOMS RELATED TO YOUR NECK
There are many other conditions that can cause neck pain, some of which are serious and require medical attention. While the most common cause of these symptoms are whiplash or neck strain, there are other signs to watch for that could indicate other problems:
- Weakness of the hands or arms. These symptoms may be due to compression of the spinal cord or the spinal nerves which exit the cord. Some causes of this include herniated discs and spinal stenosis.
- Numbness or abnormal sensations in the hands and arms Again, these symptoms can be cause by injury to the spinal cord or nerves. If these symptoms are present, then you should have further evaluation.
- Pain accompanied by unusual weight changes or fevers It is important that neck pain accompanied by these symptoms, as well as nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, fevers, chills, or sweats, be further evaluated. While it is unusual, these can be the first signs of infections or tumours.
- Lack of improvement over time
Any problem such as this that does not improve over time should be further evaluated. If the initial diagnosis is whiplash, but the neck continues to be problematic, further evaluation should take place.
There are chronic conditions (such as arthritis and osteoporosis) and acute problems (such as fractures) that can cause symptoms similar to a neck strain. If your symptoms worsen instead of improve, or if they are not relieved with rest, you should see a doctor.
Poor posture can cause neck pain by putting extra strain on ligaments and muscles. Common postural problems include:
- Standing with the shoulders slouched and chin jutted forward
- Working with your head down for long periods of time
- Slumping while seated
- Sleeping face-down
PREVENTION OF POSTURAL-RELATED NECK PAIN
- Correct your posture when standing or sitting, lift your chest, drop your chin slightly and relax your shoulders.
- Ensure your workstation is set up to help you sit properly.
- Stretch and change position frequently while you are working.
- Try not to sleep on your stomach, which overextends your neck.
- Choose a supportive pillow for neck support while you sleep.
- Combat the muscle tightening effects of stress with relaxation techniques.
- Exercise regularly to improve muscle tone and posture.
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