If you’ve experienced neck pain or stiffness at some point in your life, you’re far from alone. Research suggests that the percentage of people who have experienced neck pain ranges from around 10-20%, though the risk is higher for those who work on computers for long periods.
Because it can be hard to diagnose the causes of neck pain, it’s easy to grow frustrated with your condition. After all, how can you treat something you don’t understand?
If you’re not sure why your neck hurts or what to do about it, we’ve got you covered. Let’s take a look at the most common reasons you might be experiencing neck pain, as well as at-home relief methods you can try.
The Common Causes of Neck Pain
As you go about your day, it’s always worth keeping in mind some of the most common causes of neck pain. Being aware of what can cause neck pain may help you avoid activities that can aggravate the muscles and joints in the area.
Neck injuries can lead to long-term pain if left unaddressed. If you’ve experienced a fall, a car accident, or a sports-related injury, the impact may have forced your neck muscles and joints outside of their normal range of movement.
In severe cases, you might even have experienced an injury to the vertebrae of the neck. If you believe you’ve fractured a bone in your neck, it’s important to reach out to a doctor as soon as possible.
Certain activities can strain the muscles of the neck, especially when we engage in them over and over again. Among US adults, some of the most common activities leading to neck pain include poor posture, long hours seated at a desk, and poor sleeping habits.
In addition, it’s worth making sure that you aren’t straining your neck with your regular exercise. Certain weight-lifting activities can strain the neck when done with bad form, and repetitions only worsen the strain.
A wide range of medical conditions can cause or aggravate your neck pain.
In particular, stiffness of the neck is a common symptom of meningitis. In some cases, it can be one of many symptoms related to a heart attack. If you experience neck pain in addition to fever, a headache, nausea, shortness of breath, or vomiting, visit an emergency room as soon as possible.
In addition, many less severe conditions can affect your neck pain. This is especially true of bone- and joint-related conditions like osteoporosis, rheumatoid arthritis, and fibromyalgia.
What You Can Do to Find Relief
When you experience stiffness or pain at home, there are a few ways to lessen or even eliminate your pain.
Get Some Rest
If you believe your daily activities may have caused your pain, rest may help you reduce it. Try taking a few days off of sports, workouts, and heavy lifting. If you experience relief, you may want to reconsider your activities to reduce the chances of future neck strain.
Try Basic Pain Relief Tactics
Even if you aren’t sure of the cause of your neck pain, most neck conditions are easy to treat with basic pain relief measures. Apply an ice pack to the affected area for twenty minutes at a time, and take over-the-counter pain relievers to reduce your pain.
Insist on Good Posture
Many people tend to hunch over their phones or computers, which can cause their neck to extend forward. This can cause muscle strain, as the muscles in your neck must work harder to support the weight of your head. Reconsider the ergonomics of your workspace and make sure to sit straight when you can.
You should also make sure to maintain good posture when you’re on the phone. Cradling your phone between your neck and shoulder for long periods can cause tension, so make sure to use speakerphone mode or get an earbud instead.
If you must keep your neck in a strained position at any point, make sure to work it out afterward. To do this, try some neck pain exercises: stretch your neck forward and back, and then from side to side, performing a few repetitions each way.
Sometimes, our sleeping habits can affect our neck pain. Sleeping on your back is the best position for neck pain relief, and it may also be a good idea to invest in a cervical pillow that supports the natural curve of your neck.
When to Work With a Specialist
Though you can perform basic care activities to reduce your pain at home, it’s a good idea to contact your doctor if the symptoms persist. If you experience sudden, acute neck pain with no apparent cause, call a doctor at once. Otherwise, visit a neck specialist if you experience symptoms for more than a week or two.
A neck specialist will perform an exam and gather your medical history. Depending on your neck pain symptoms, they may also measure your neck mobility, take X-rays, or perform other tests to determine the cause of your pain.
Once you and your doctor have a better understanding of the root of your pain, your doctor can prescribe a treatment method to help you safely recover.
Start Recovering From Neck Pain Today
There are many safe ways to treat your pain at home, regardless of the causes of neck pain. From preventative measures to over-the-counter medication, you can relieve short-term pain with just a few steps. Do what you can to minimize your neck tension and strain, and don’t hesitate to call an expert if your condition doesn’t get better.
Looking for more helpful guides like this one? Check out our other posts for additional insights.