Neck pain is common, but not normal. Causes include trauma, poor posture, muscle strain, bone abnormalities, and more. Diagnosing neck pain may require X-rays, MRIs, and other imaging tests. Many times, exercises can help alleviate pain. Stretching, strengthening exercises, yoga, and other similar forms of exercise are often helpful. Other treatments may include pain relievers, muscle relaxers, and other forms of treatment. Follow the links below to find WebMD's comprehensive coverage about how neck pain is caused, treated, and prevented.
What Is Neck Pain?Neck pain is any time your neck hurts. It’s a common problem with lots of causes. Your neck has a tough job. It holds up the same weight as a bowling ball all day long. The bones at the top of your spine, along with your muscles and ligaments, support your head, which weighs about 11 pounds. It can be a delicate balance. Things like sleeping wrong and bad posture can cause neck pain, as more than one-quarter of American adults can tell you. It isn’t usually a symptom of a more serious health problem. Neck Pain SymptomsIf your neck hurts, you may notice other symptoms including: ADVERTISEMENT
Pain that gets worse when you hold your head a certain way while working on a computer, driving, or doing other tasks
Neck Pain DiagnosisCall your doctor if your neck pain is severe, doesn’t respond to treatment, gets worse over time, or includes numbness, weakness, or tingling and pain in your arms and legs. Your doctor may ask:
When did the pain start?
Have you been injured?
Do you have numbness or weakness in your arms or hands?
Does moving your neck in a certain way make things better or worse?
Your doctor has many tools to figure out what’s wrong. They could order X-rays, an MRI, CT scan, EMG (electromyography), or blood tests. Neck Pain TreatmentTreatments could include muscle relaxants, physical therapy, a padded neck collar, or traction. In rare situations, you may need shots of cortisone or even surgery. With treatment, your neck will usually stop hurting in a few days. Use medicines like acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofento ease pain. Put an ice pack on your neck for the first 2 to 3 days to help lower swelling. After that, use moist heat, like a hot shower or a heating pad, to help it heal. There are also exercises you can do at home (or in front of your computer at work) to gently stretch your neck muscles. You can also visit a chiropractor or get a neckmassagefor short-term relief.
Neck Pain PreventionFix your posture to fix your neck pain. Sit or stand with your shoulders directly over your hips and your head straight. Adjust your chair or desktop so your computer monitor is at eyelevel. Take frequent breaks. Don’t tuck your phone between your ear and shoulder. Use a speakerphone or headset instead. Try not to carry heavy bags with shoulder straps. Try a different pillow if you’re waking up with a stiff neck. Some people find that a relatively flat one, or one with built-in neck support, works best. Sleeping on your back or side, not your belly, also allows your neck muscles and ligaments to get the rest they need.
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