Neck pain may go together with stiffness and decreased ability to move the neck well. Neck pain is, after back and shoulder pain, the most common disease of the musculoskeletal system. Approximately two out of three people have a history of neck pain during life. Usually, there is no obvious cause and the pain is gone within a few weeks.
How neck pain arises is not always clear. It is possibly the result of stress, overload, a wrong move or a wrong posture. Even after a fall or punch, for example in sports, the neck can hurt. Whether draught and cold play a role is uncertain. Possible causes are:
- Stiff muscles. A person could have strained a muscle. The neck muscles can also be stiff as a response to pain.
- Whiplash. After a rear-end collision, neck problems can occur. Here, the head strikes forcefully backwards and then forwards.
- Osteoarthritis. In the elderly, the little joints between the vertebrae can wear and change. This can cause chronic neck pain.
- As a result of osteoporosis, the cervical vertebrae can sometimes collapse. Vertebral fractures may also easily arise. This occurs mainly in the elderly, especially in women after menopause.
Rare causes of neck pain are: neck hernia, meningitis, arthritis, vertebral fractures or cancer metastases.
People with neck pain have pain in their lower neck. The pain may be felt in the back of the head to low in the neck just at the transition to the thoracic spine. The pain may radiate to the shoulders and/or arms, but also to the head. Sometimes, they are the static postures that hurt, but also moving, such as looking back, can be very painful. In addition to neck pain, there can also be other symptoms, such as tingling in the arms. The pain is dull or aching. Neck pain can be very bothersome. It is sometimes difficult to do everyday things normally.
Neck pain can be divided into acute neck pain (usually passes on its own in four to six weeks), chronic neck pain (lasts more than twelve weeks) and recurrent neck pain (when more than two episodes of neck pain occur in the same year).
The diagnosis of neck pain can often be made based on the story of the patient and physical examination. In order to identify the cause, additional examination is sometimes required, for example X-rays, CT scan or MRI scan.
The treatment of neck pain depends on the cause. Short-term painkillers are often prescribed. Physical therapists and remedial therapists can relieve cramps and pain by exercises, relaxation techniques and learning a good posture.
In most cases of acute (sudden) neckpain, the prognosis is good. The symptoms often improve after a few days and usually disappear within a few weeks. However, the time frame in which improvement occurs, is different for each person. Some people develop chronic or recurrent neck pain. Here, the pain tends to come and go, with an attack from time to time.
- Move as far as possible within your own potential. A physical therapist can be consulted for specific exercises. By exercising, the patient will feel less pain and is able to move more easily than before.
- Lift and/or carry things close to the body. Go down through the knees (instead of bending over), before lifting something. Avoid turning the back while holding something heavy.
- Obviously, a good posture is important. Changing posture is healthy. If a person is sitting or standing all day in the same way, problems arise earlier. Go walking, change posture or move occasionally with the shoulders and the head or take a rest when needed. Try to set up the workplace in such a way, that the neck is loaded as little as possible. This means sitting upright, placing the monitor at eye level, putting the keyboard not too far away and tuning glasses at the proper strength.
- Who stays fit, runs less risk that the neck pain recurs. A person can work on that by exercising regularly, for example by walking or cycling. Do whatever what you like, because that’s easier to keep on and is best for the physical condition.
- Relaxing. A good condition also includes relaxation. Stress creates a tense posture and this increases the risk of neck pain. Be aware that in periods of stress, the body is more vulnerable than in periods without stress.