Pain located in the neck is a common medical complaint. Neck pain can come from a number of disorders and diseases of any structure in the neck. Neck pain is also referred to as cervical pain or “cervicalgia”.
There are seven vertebrae that are the bony blocks of the spine in the neck (the cervical vertebrae) that surround the spinal cord and canal. Between these vertebrae are discs, and nearby pass the nerves of the neck. Within the neck, structures include the neck muscles, arteries, veins, lymph glands, thyroid gland, parathyroid glands, esophagus, larynx and trachea (wind pipe).
In diagnosing the cause of neck pain, it is important to review the history of the symptoms with my patients. In reviewing the history, I will note the location, intensity, duration, and radiation of the pain. Any past injury to the neck is also noted. Aggravating and/or relieving positions or motions are also recorded. The neck is examined at rest and in motion. Tenderness is detected, and an examination of the nervous system is performed. Sometimes more tests are needed to help diagnose the cause and I will discuss with you that if necessary.
Neck pain may be caused by accident or injury, musculoskeletal condition, or even a very rarely a tumor. But often times, bad posture — including the position in which you sleep — can cause a stiff neck.
The treatment of neck pain depends on its precise cause. Treatment options include rest, heat/ice applications, spinal manipulation, ultrasound, massage, topical creams, exercise, and very rarely surgical procedures. The prolonged use of medication is usually not the best long term solution for chronic neck pain suffers.
Your pillow can make a difference. Be sure your pillow does not force your head into an unnatural position while you sleep, resting it either too high or too low. Feather pillows are typically better than foam, as they will mold to the shape of your head and neck without forcing it into a position that may cause pain. Your pillow should be replaced when it starts to flatten out and provide less support. Do not compensate by using too many pillows. Your mattress can also impact neck pain, so be sure to choose one that is fairly firm with good back support. Also, avoid sleeping on your stomach, and try stretching your neck muscles before and after bed.
Lastly any neck pain that last longer than three days or increases in severity should be checked in the office by me. Symptoms that can often be associated with neck problems are headaches, arm pain or numbness, chest or jaw pain.
Dr. Gerry Nastasia, DC, DABCO