Have you ever called somebody a “pain in the neck”? You probably didn’t give it much thought, just a throwaway line that has become part of our idiom. But if you’ve ever woken up with a neck that’s painful and stiff, you suddenly realize just how big an insult the phrase really is. When you have a stiff or painful neck, you can’t turn your head without causing yourself misery. All of a sudden the movements that you take for granted – looking to your left or right while driving, or holding your phone between your shoulder and your ear – become an ordeal. When you wake up with a pain in the neck that doesn’t go away, you suddenly realize how lucky you were just days earlier, when you had full mobility. Though in most cases the symptoms disappear in a day or two, in other cases it can last a lot longer. When that’s the case, you need to see a cervical spine specialist in New Jersey.
There are a few different things that may be causing your neck pain. They are:
• Muscle strain
• Cervical spine disorders
Addressing the last on this list first, neck pain caused by infection is rare, and is generally accompanied by other symptoms such as fever, nausea or headache. If you experience any of these symptoms along with a stiff neck, call your general physician immediately.
The other two possible causes of neck pain, muscle strain, and disorders of the cervical spine, are better diagnosed and treated by a cervical spine specialist. Muscle strains often go away on their own, but not always. They can be caused by an accident, by carrying a heavy purse on one shoulder, by sleeping in an awkward position, and even from spending too much time looking down at a smartphone or computer screen.
Cervical spine disorders are more cumulative than muscle strain, and can impact the bones, joints, muscles, nerves, or any combination of those components. Some are a result of injury and some of a degenerative process, but all can cause severe discomfort. Some of the most common types of cervical spine disorders that can cause neck pain include:
• Spinal stenosis – this occurs when the joints in the back of your spine come into contact with the spine’s nerves, or even the spinal cord itself.
• Problems with the cervical disc – when the cervical discs are damaged, they can come into contact with the nerve roots and cause neck pain.
Treatment for neck pain can vary depending on the cause and severity. You should always begin with rest, as if the cause is a simple muscle strain that’s generally all that is needed for the pain to resolve itself. Using ice or heat packs can also help, as can taking over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen, naproxen or acetaminophen. If your pain does not go away after a week, it is a good idea to set up a consultation with a cervical spine specialist in New Jersey to get a diagnosis of the problem, as well as a solution.