Cervical pain is a pain in and around the shoulder and neck region of the body. This pain is caused due to various reasons that could include any changes in the bones joints that are connected to the neck.
Cervical pain could range from a mild pain to severe unbearable pain. The common symptoms of cervical pain include:
- Pain and/or stiffness in the neck
- Numbness or weakness and tingling in the arms and legs
- Headaches at the back of the head
- Difficulty in walking and other daily activities
- Muscles spasms
- Abnormal reflexes by the hands and legs
Symptoms may have different types of treatment that can be used to heal the pain. Therapy including exercises, home remedies for cervical pain and medications are options that are commonly considered for treating the condition. An expert consultation is always a must before going on with any treatment for cervical pain.
Causes of Cervical Pain
The major cause behind the cervical pain is the wear and tear of the cartilages and bones; however the pain could also be caused due to various other reasons as discussed later. Below are the top causes for cervical pain:
- Neck overuse: Having an occupation where everyday work may involves constant movements of neck or spine could result in easy wear and tear , very commonly seen where there is excessive use of laptops and desks
- Injury: Injury is one the major reasons of causing the pain. An injury on neck or spine region could immediately trigger the condition for cervical pain.
- Herniated discs: This condition causes numbness and pain in the arms and it occurs when the spinal discs develops cracks in them pressurizing the spinal nerves and cords.
- Dehydrated spinal can also cause chronic cervical pain as there is not enough cartilage to maintain the smooth movement of the joints
- Bone spurs or overgrowth can press against other spinal nerves and spinal cord and cause pain.
- Other causes include constant bad body postures that due to bad seating arrangements, Jobs that need continuous sitting, sleeping on inappropriate mattress and more.
Diagnosing the Cervical Pain condition
The diagnosis may start with knowing the medical history or of any injury that could have caused the problem. The doctor might make movements to check for tenderness, numbness and muscle weakness, as well as see to see the range of head or neck movement. The doctor could check how far the head moves forward, backward and side to side. After the physical examination, the following tests could be recommended:
- Blood tests: Blood tests can reveal infectious conditions that might be causing or contributing to the neck pain
- X-rays: X-rays can disclose areas in the neck where the nerves or spinal cord might be pinched by bone spurs or other degenerative changes that are causing the pain.
- CT scan: CT scans combine X-ray images taken from many different directions to produce detailed cross-sectional views of the internal structures of your neck giving a wider view
- MRI: MRI uses radio waves and a strong magnetic field to create detailed images of not just the bones but of the nerves too
- Electromyography (EMG): EMG involves inserting fine needles through the skin into a muscle and performing tests to measure the speed of nerve conduction to determine whether specific nerves are functioning properly.
Treatment of Cervical Pain
Cervical pain is a common condition and is also treatable with various options. Knowing the exact cervical pain condition and severity is crucial before a treatment plant is suggested. To get to the root of what causes cervical pain before opting for a cervical pain treatment, the doctors may recommend various diagnosis tests. The common cervical pain treatments include:
- Exercises specific for Cervical Pain
The aim of these exercises is to strengthen the muscles around neck and shoulder. The exercises cause relief from the numbness and stiffness that is causing the discomfort.
The medication could be a dose of pain killers at the start. When the pain still persists, doses of medications to help with muscle relaxations, pain relief, and reducing inflammation could be advised.
The surgery to treat a cervical pain condition is always only a last recommendation. It is considered only when any medication or physical therapy is not helping the patient and the pain is severe and is disturbing the daily activities. The aim of the surgery is to remove the cure cause of the pain i.e. in case of an over grown bone the doctors might remove it to release pressure on the spine thus causing relief from the pain.
Treating mild conditions at home using conventional remedies
Mild cervical pain conditions can be treated at home using the following home remedies:
- Applying a heat or ice pad around shoulder and neck
- Practicing mild exercises under the guidance of a cervical therapy expert or a professional therapist
- Using a wearable soft neck collar or brace to minimize the neck movement
- Watching the posture and changing the sitting arrangements or mattresses that could be the cause of the issue
- Resting enough and avoiding overuse of the bones to heal properly
Preventing Cervical Pain
Cervical pain could be prevented by implementing some simple changes in the routine. These could include:
- Be aware of your posture when standing and sitting. Make sure that the shoulders are in a straight line over the hips and the neck is straight such that the ears are directly over the shoulders
- Check the seating or that mattress. There are special chairs and mattresses available that are specially designed to help with such issues. Consider replacing your stuff.
- Be aware of your sleeping position and the pillow you use. Always use a small pillow under your neck and not a thick one. The head and neck should be aligned with the body.
- Take frequent breaks when sitting/driving for a long time. Relax and move the head, neck and shoulders by doing simple movements.
- Avoid activities like keeping the phone between ear and shoulder while talking. Consider using a earphone, headphone or speaker.
- Quit smoking as researches reveal that it can put one at higher risk of developing neck pain.
- Avoid carrying anything heavy over the shoulders constantly as the weight can strain the neck. One example is carrying heavy laptop bags or heavy sacs daily.
- Proper Back Pain / Neck Pain Exercise and follow proper Nutrition during back pain.