If you’re experiencing neck pain, you might be wondering if it’s something serious. It’s important to pay attention to your body and how you’re feeling, and seek medical attention if necessary. In this blog, we will look at some common causes of neck pain, as well as some serious causes of neck pain. We will also discuss the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of neck pain.
Common Causes of Neck Pain
Neck pain can affect anyone and can be aggravated by a myriad of reasons. It is important to understand the common causes of neck pain in order to determine when something more serious may be causing your pain. Here are some of the most common causes of neck pain and stiffness:
- Repetitive strain performed through activities such as typing and video gaming, is one of the most common sources of neck pain.
- Sleeping in an awkward position, which stresses your body even while you are resting
- Poor posture at work or in everyday life could put unnecessary strain on the muscles surrounding the spine and result in chronic neck stiffness or discomfort
- Whiplash injury due to automobile accidents can also lead to persistent neck pains that require medical attention.
Serious Causes of Neck Pain
In some cases, neck pain may have a more serious cause. It is important to be aware of the more serious causes of neck pain so you can seek medical treatment right away. The most common serious condition that can cause neck pain and stiffness is meningitis.
Meningitis is an infection that causes inflammation of the protective membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. It can cause severe neck pain, along with other symptoms such as fever, headache, stiff neck, and sensitivity to light. The neck pain associated with meningitis is usually described as a deep, intense ache that can make it difficult to move the neck. The pain may also be accompanied by muscle spasms, making it challenging to bend the neck forward. If you experience neck pain along with other symptoms of meningitis, it is essential to seek medical attention immediately. Meningitis can be a life-threatening condition, and prompt diagnosis and treatment are critical for a good outcome.
Additionally, it is also recommended to seek medical attention if you are experiencing any of these red flags along with neck pain and stiffness:
- change in mental state (confusion or mood swings)
- coordination problems (walking problems, dizziness)
- headache (especially if it feels different)
- nausea or vomiting
- unintentional weight loss
This is because these symptoms could indicate meningitis, or another serious condition. Although the conditions listed below are quite rare, they can also cause neck pain with one or more of the aforementioned symptoms:
Besides meningitis, there are other infections that can cause neck pain. One such infection is osteomyelitis. Osteomyelitis is a bacterial infection that affects the bones and can cause deep neck pain. Other types of infections, such as sepsis, can also cause neck pain. Infections are generally accompanied by other symptoms including redness or swelling around the area where the infection is located.
Tumors located in the brain stem or cervical spine can also cause neck soreness and stiffness.
Cervical dystonia is a neurological disorder characterized by involuntary movements or spasms of the neck and shoulder muscles that cause pain and discomfort. Symptoms usually start gradually and worsen over time.
Diagnosis, Treatment, & Prevention of Neck Pain
When you seek medical attention for your neck pain, your doctor will perform a physical examination assessing range of motion in the neck and shoulder area, ask about the location of pain, and evaluate any associated symptoms like headaches. In some cases, imaging scans such as X-rays or MRIs may be ordered to rule out any underlying injury or conditions.
Fortunately, there are many treatments available today to alleviate neck pain. Depending on the severity and cause of your neck pain, you may find relief in one or more of the following: medication, physical therapy, yoga and Pilates exercises, massage sessions, chiropractic care, acupuncture treatments or psychotherapy sessions.
In some cases surgical intervention may be beneficial. A good starting point for identifying a suitable treatment is to consult with a doctor who will be able to assess your condition and develop a tailored plan that meets your individual needs. Whatever option you choose for managing your neck pain, regular complete breaks from physical activity or work may be beneficial for keeping it at bay.
Preventing neck pain is essential for anyone engaging in physical labor or even those living a sedentary lifestyle. Practices such as stretching and exercises to improve posture, muscle strength, and flexibility can help keep neck muscles and ligaments strong which can reduce the likelihood of pain arising. Additionally, taking regular breaks from work and computer use to alleviate built up tension in the neck and shoulders can be beneficial. An ergonomic chair that provides proper back support should be used when undertaking lengthy tasks and activities where prolonged sitting is required. These simple practice changes can often make all the difference in preventing neck pain.
Neck pain is a common issue that can be caused by a variety of factors. While most cases are not serious, there are times when neck pain can be a sign of a more severe underlying condition, such as meningitis. If you experience severe or persistent neck pain accompanied by red flag symptoms, seek medical attention immediately. You should also seek medical attention if you have regular neck pain. A spinal specialist can help you manage your neck pain and experience an improved quality of life.