Neck pain is pain that starts in the neck and can be associated with radiating pain down one or both of the arms. Neck pain can come from many disorders or diseases that involve any of the tissues in the neck, nerves, bones, joints, ligaments, or muscles. The neck region of the spinal column, the cervical spine, consists of seven bones (C1-C7 vertebrae), which are separated from one another by intervertebral discs. These discs allow the spine to move freely and act as shock absorbers during activity.
WHEN TO SEEK MEDICAL HELP IF YOU HAVE NECK PAIN?
Seek medical help for neck pain if:
- It occurs after an injury or blow(s) to the head.
- A stiff neck prevents from touching chin to chest.
- Pain shoots down one or both arms.
- There is tingling, numbness or weakness in the arms or hands.
- Neck symptoms are associated with leg weakness or loss of coordination in arms or legs.
- The pain does not respond to over-the-counter pain medication.
- Pain does not improve after a week.
- Fever or headache accompanies neck pain.
TESTING AND DIAGNOSING NECK PAIN
Diagnosis is made based on patient history, symptoms, a physical examination and results of diagnostic studies, if necessary. The tests may include:
- Computed Tomography Scan (CT or CAT scan)
- Nerve Conduction Studies (NCS)
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
- Selective Nerve Root Block
- QUALITY MATERIAL. Within broad categories such as memory foam or feather pillows, the quality of the individual pillow plays a significant role in determining its longevity and comfort.
- PRICE. When shopping for a pillow, keep in mind that certain types of pillows will last you for years, while others may need to be replaced after a year or two as their materials wear out and lose their loft or conforming abilities.
- PRESSURE RELIEF. A good pillow provides pressure relief by taking the strain off the neck and contouring to reduce pressure points. For the best pressure relief, choose a pillow that’s the appropriate shape and size for your sleeping position, and the appropriate firmness to alleviate pressure at contact points.
- FIRMNESS LEVEL. The pillow firmness will determine where your head comes to rest, so it’s important to give this aspect careful consideration. Pillows that are too firm may cause pressure points, for example in the ears when side sleeping. On the other hand, pillows that are too soft may sag under your head and fail to provide proper support.
- LOFT. The loft determines the angle of your head in relation to your spine. A pillow that’s too high or too low can force your neck to bend at an unnatural angle, causing strain and discomfort over time. That’s why sleep experts recommend choosing a pillow loft that keeps your head and neck aligned with your spine.
- SUPPORT. In addition to being the right height under your head, a pillow should also adequately support your neck.
Finding the cause of neck pain begins with a complete history and physical examination. After the history and physical examination, your doctor will have a good idea of the cause of your pain. To make sure of the exact cause of your neck pain, your doctor can use several diagnostic tests. These tests are used to find the cause of your pain. Regular X-rays are usually a first step in looking into any neck problem and will help determine if more tests are needed.
A “complete history” is usually made up of two parts. The first part is written; a form that you fill out while you wait to see the doctor. While you fill out the form, take time to think about everything you can remember that relates to your neck pain and write it down. The more you can tell your doctor, the faster he or she can diagnose the cause and help relieve your pain. The second part of your history will be answering questions. Your doctor will ask you to describe when your neck pain began and the type of pain you are having.
Examples of questions that might be asked include:
- When did the pain first begin?
- Have you increased your activity level?
- Have you had an injury, or surgery, to your neck at any time?
- Does the pain go down into your arms or legs?
- What causes your neck to hurt more or less?
- Have you had any problems with your bowels or bladder?
Once most of the information is gathered, your doctor will give you a thorough physical exam. During the exam, your doctor will look at your neck to find out how well it is functioning. This includes:
- How well you can bend your neck and roll your head in all directions
- How well you can twist your neck
- If there is tenderness around the neck
- If there are muscle spasms around the neck and shoulders
Tests that examine the nerves that leave the spine are also important. These include:
- Testing for numbness in the arms and hands
- Testing the reflexes
- Testing the strength of the muscles in the arms, hands, and legs
- Testing for signs of nerve irritation
X-rays show the bones of the cervical spine. Most of the soft tissue structures of the spine, such as the nerves, discs, and muscles, do not show up on X-ray. X-rays can show problems that affect the bones, such as infection, fractures, or tumors of the bones. X-rays may also give some idea of how much degeneration has occurred in the spine. Also, narrowing of the disc space between each vertebra and bone spurs do show up on X-rays. The X-rays will be useful in showing how much degeneration and arthritis are affecting the neck. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/neck-pain-and-stiff-neck/
If you have neck stiffness you want to get rid of it as soon as you can. One of the ways to do that is through exercise. As long as your doctor says it’s OK, you should start as soon as possible to ease stiffness and pain. Resting for too long, usually anything more than a couple of days, will make it harder to get moving again.
Don’t exercise if you have severe neck pain or weakness in your hands or arms. If you get it while you exercise, stop right away and call your doctor.
Which Exercises Should to do?
Neck Tilt: From the sitting position, tilt your head down towards your chin Hold this position for 5 seconds. Return to the starting position and repeat. Do this five times.
Side-to-Side Neck Tilt. From the same starting position, tilt your neck toward one shoulder, leading with your ear. Hold for 5 seconds and then return to the starting position. Do this five times on each side.
Neck Turn. Look straight ahead, then turn your head to one side, keeping your chin at the same level. Do this five times on each side.
Neck Stretch. Holding the rest of your body straight, push your chin forward, stretching your throat. Hold for 5 seconds. From the same starting position, push your chin backward and hold for 5 seconds. Do the forward and backward stretch five times each.
If any of these exercises cause severe pain or weakness in your hands or arms, stop right away and talk with your doctor. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/neck-pain-and-stiff-neck/
If your lower back muscle spasms do begin after an injury or an activity that stressed the muscles, try alternating ice and heat on your back. Ice will help reduce inflammation and heat may help improve blood flow.
Medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and muscle relaxants may help relieve symptoms while the muscles heal. Research supports that muscle relaxants provide significant pain relief in short-term muscle spasms.
Chiropractic care may help, but be sure to see a doctor to have your condition properly diagnosed first. Physical therapy to help strengthen your back and abdominal muscles is often recommended, as long as the muscles are healthy enough for exercise.
PREVENTING BACK MUSCLE SPASMS
- Standing up straight and wearing low-heeled shoes will help provide stability and strength in your lower back.
- Engaging in regular physical activity, such as strengthening exercises for your back and abdomen will also help keep you moving and feeling great.
If you aren’t currently physically active, talk to your doctor before beginning an exercise program. They may suggest certain exercises that will be easier on your back. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/back-pain/treatment/
What is spinal decompression?
Spinal decompression is a revolutionary computer-aided technology that helps treat the symptoms of low back and neck pain from herniated, bulging, degenerated and slipped discs.
How does spinal decompression works?
Decompression is achieved by using a specific combination of force of pull, angle in a degree of pull and varying time in order to create a negative pressure inside the discs of the spinal cord. This reversal of pressure creates a vacuum inside the disc that helps to draw in bulging discs and extruded disc material back into place, taking pressure off pinched or irritated nerves.
What conditions qualify for spinal decompression?
Candidates for spinal decompression therapy include the following:
- Diagnosis of a herniated, bulging or degenerated disc
- Back pain that is persisting for more than three weeks
- Recurrent pain from a failed back surgery that is more than six months old
- Persistent pain from arthritis
- Patient at least 18 years of age
Who doesn’t qualify for spinal decompression?
Candidates that may not qualify for spinal decompression therapy include the following:
- Hardware in the spine such as screws and rods
- Prior lumbar fusion less than six months old
- Metastatic cancer (cancer that has spread to the bones)
- Grade 3 and 4 spondylolisthesis (Grade 1 or Grade 2 spondylolisthesis are treatable)
- Recent compression fracture of the lumbar spine
- Pathologic aortic aneurysm
- Pelvic or abdominal cancer
- Disc space infections
If you have a back problem, find out from your doctor if you would qualify for spinal decompression therapy. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/lumbar-decompression-surgery/why-its-done/
Follow your healthcare provider’s instructions for wearing a cervical collar or brace. The neck collar or brace is important because it supports and correctly positions your neck after surgery. Be sure to follow instructions for its care, use, and the length of time you must wear it.
Don’t drive until your healthcare provider says it’s OK. This will most likely be when you can move your neck from side to side freely and without pain. Never drive while you are taking opioid pain medicine.
Wait for 5 to 7 days after your surgery to start showering. Then shower as needed. You may be instructed to use a neck collar while you shower. If so, carefully remove it when you finish showering. Then keep your neck correctly positioned as you gently pat dry your skin, the incision, and the neck collar. Then put the neck collar back on. Don’t rub the incision, or apply creams or lotions on it.
Don’t soak in bathtubs, hot tubs, or swimming pools until instructed by your healthcare provider.
Keep appointments for X-rays. They will be taken often to check the status of the cervical fusion. https://www.hey.nhs.uk/patient-leaflet/care-of-your-neck-following-cervical-spine-surgery/
The right pillow is essential in keeping the neck in a supported position with neutral alignment during sleep. Without the right pillow support, the neck will be stressed and will lead to daytime neck pain or stiffness.
The key is to find a pillow that is the right height and firm for the person’s size, sleeping position, and personal preferences. A pillow that is too high or firm does not allow the neck to relax fully during sleep. On the other hand, a pillow that is too flat also puts strain on the neck. https://www.amazon.co.uk/Memory-Foam-Pillow-Sleeping-Gel-Infused/dp/B08N12M5QS/ref=sr_1_3_sspa?keywords=orthopedic+memory+foam+pillows+for+sleeping&qid=1638351723&sr=8-3-spons&psc=1&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUEyQ0RMS1g5SUlGNlJTJmVuY3J5cHRlZElkPUEwMTE0NDc2MVFCT05MQ1dYVDczTyZlbmNyeXB0ZWRBZElkPUEwOTA3MTg0MVVFOEYxT0RJNENVOSZ3aWRnZXROYW1lPXNwX2F0ZiZhY3Rpb249Y2xpY2tSZWRpcmVjdCZkb05vdExvZ0NsaWNrPXRydWU=
Best Pillows for Sleeping Positions
Sleeping positions are a major factor in determining the best kind of pillow.
When sleeping on the back. A fairly low pillow is better in this position. Extra support can be provided by adding a small rolled towel or a small roll-shaped pillow positioned under the neck.
When sleeping on the side. A higher pillow is advised in this case, so the neck and head are aligned straight over the shoulders as they would be when standing with good posture. A rolled towel or roll-shaped pillow should be put under the neck and supplemented with a pillow for the head.
When sleeping on the stomach. This position is not recommended because it tends to make the back arch and the head turn, stressing the neck.