Two out of three people will develop neck pain at some time in their lives. Generally, a minor strain of the ligaments, tendons, or muscles in the neck will heal in a few days or weeks. But sometimes you’ll need a bit of expert help.
When you injure the soft tissues (ligaments, tendons, and muscles) in your neck, you may not always feel the pain where you expect. It may be localised in the middle or in one side of your neck or spread to the shoulder or upper chest, the center, back or side of your head, behind your eye, or even to your ear. It may feel like stiffness, radiating pain, a burning sensation, muscle spasm, or headache.
What Causes Neck Sprain?
If you’re susceptible, a sudden movement – as commonplace as brushing your hair or as obvious as a whiplash injury – can bring on neck problems, possible by disturbing a facet joint in one of your vertebrae. When this happens, the surrounding muscles knot into a spasm to protect the area: it feels as if your neck is “locked” an unable to move.
The main muscles involved are those at the back and sides of the neck, but the small muscles that run from vertebra to vertebra may also go into spasm. As long as the muscles are contracted in a spasm, they cannot receive sufficient oxygen and this makes the pain and stiffness worse.
Advancing age and pregnancy increase the risk of this type of neck pain because, in these circumstances, the ligaments surrounding the cervical vertebrae tend to loosen, and their ability to stabilise the neck is reduced.
If the nature of your job means your neck stays in one position for long periods of time – for example driving or sitting at a desk or checkout counter – you are also most likely to develop problems.
Muscle strain or tension caused by everyday activities is among the commonest causes of neck pain. The major triggers are:
- Bending over a desk for hours.
- Poor posture while watching TV or reading.
- Placing your computer screen too high or too low.
- Sleeping in an uncomfortable position.
- Twisting and turning the neck in a jarring manner while exercising
There’s a lot you can do to reduce your chances of soft-tissue neck pain. Here are some tips:
- Take frequent breaks if you drive long distances or work long hours at your computer.
- Adjust your desk, chair, and computer so the monitor id facing you directly at eye level.
- Stretch frequently if you work at a desk.
- Tuck the phone between your ear and shoulder. if you use the phone a lot and need to keep your hand free – say, for typing – get a headset.
- Sleep on your stomach. Lying in this position puts stress on your neck.
- Have a pillow that is too firm or too high. Choose one that supports the natural curve of your neck.
Fixing Neck Strain and Sprain
When we’re in pain we instinctively protect the damaged area by avoiding normal activities and movement. But this can make things worse because lack of movement can increase stiffness and weaken the neck muscles. They then tire more easily and become more susceptible to further strain.
Oral anti-inflammatories can relieve pain and stiffness enough to give you some movement. An ice pack or heat pad may also be of benefit.
Physiotherapy is also helpful. Lastly, anti-inflammatory injection will be helpful for localised pain area.