Waking up with a profoundly stiff neck is all-consuming while you’re going through it. There are few things more maddening then being unable to turn your head without pain, for no apparent reason.
If you’re lucky, it goes away and you completely forget about it once it’s gone, but many of us suffer with chronic neck pain that never fully goes away, or is a frequent visitor. At the least, we are all subject to occasional pain and stiffness.
Here’s what you need to know about why it happens, and what you can do about it.
Understanding the Anatomy
All you have to do it take a close look at the way that your head is attached to your spine to get a good understanding of how important, and how vulnerable, the neck is. It is what allows us to look up and down, left and right, all while holding up the equivalent of a bowling ball.
The support system that allows this consists of seven relatively small bones that have discs between them for support and a host of ligaments and muscles to provide support and tissue around it.
In the middle of the whole construction is one of the body’s most crucial organs – the spinal cord. The neck’s components not only need to provide support, but also protection.
Neck pain can strike in many different ways. It can begin in the head and work its way down or can spread downward towards the shoulders and arms. Depending upon what is going wrong you may feel tingling in your extremities (in which case there’s a good chance that a nerve in your cervical spine is being pinched or compressed by a disc), or you may feel pain when you turn your head left or right, which is usually indicative of a muscle strain.
Knowing how to respond to neck pain depends upon the kind of pain that you’re experiencing and how long it has been going on.
If you are running a fever, feel unwell and have neck pain then you should seek care from your general physician, while if you have been in an accident or have injured yourself and you experience weakness, tingling or numbness, then seeing a physician like our cervical spine specialist in New Jersey is definitely in order. You will likely need diagnostic tests and immediate attention.
The same is true if your pain worsens over a period of days. Most muscle strain in the neck will improve gradually, until one day it is gone without you realizing it.
If you have not been in an accident and aren’t sure about where your neck pain came from, the best thing you can do is also the hardest – keep pursuing your normal activities. It may hurt to move, but doing so will keep your neck from getting even stiffer.
That being said, it is not advisable that you engage in particularly strenuous activities that require you to do a lot of twisting, turning or lifting. Your goal should be to move normally and keep your head in a neutral position, not trying to push it to the point of pain. Over-the-counter anti-inflammatories can be helpful, and so can ice or heat.
If your pain gets worse, doesn’t go away in a few days, or if you find yourself experiencing pain on a regular basis, then it’s time to contact our cervical spine specialist in New Jersey to make an appointment for an examination.