For many people, the phrase “pain in the neck” is more than just an expression. Studies estimate that as much as 86 percent of American people in the general population experience neck pain without injury at some point in their lives. From throbbing aches to sharp shooting pain, neck pain can impact the way somebody functions on a daily basis. When left untreated, neck pain can lower a person’s quality of life.
So what exactly causes neck pain without injury? What symptoms should you look out for? And most urgently: what can be done about this pain? Let’s get into all of these questions and more on this type of pain that impacts so many people throughout the globe.
What Does Neck Pain Without Injury Feel Like?
The neck pain symptoms you have typically depend on the cause behind the neck pain. For example, a pinched nerve in the neck might cause uncomfortable tingling in the arms or hands whereas a muscle spasm could cause achiness. Neck pain could be dull and throbbing or shooting, sharp pain. Some types of neck pain can lead to other concerns as well, such as:
Common symptoms to look out for when you experience neck pain would be pain that:
- Does not go away quickly
- Worsens with movement
- Gets worse over time
- Affects ability to function
In all of these scenarios, it’s important to take stock of your symptoms and find a medical professional who can investigate further.
What Causes Neck Pain?
There are countless reasons as to why somebody might experience neck pain (without injury). To clarify, this is neck pain that typically occurs suddenly and without event. It is not caused by an accident, external force, or other trauma. The pain can be either acute, meaning that it happens quickly and doesn’t last for a prolonged period of time, or chronic.
The causes behind this type of neck pain are vast. Neck pain can be triggered by something as small as sleeping at the slightly wrong angle or something much more serious, such as head and neck cancer. Most commonly, the conditions behind neck pain include:
- Stiff neck—This is one of the most seen complaints for professionals who treat neck pain. After all, most people have woken up to find themselves unable to move their head side to side without pain or without significant effort. Stiff necks can be a result of poor posture, lack of sleep, muscle strains, etc. If you have a stiff neck, you might feel as though you’re unable to look from side to side or up and down. You might even feel a small knot of muscle that is tight or spasming. The symptoms of a stiff neck are typically able to be treated by various interventions, such as applying heat or massaging the troubled area.
- Bone spurs—This condition describes extra growths that form on bone throughout certain areas of the body, like the neck. Neck bone spurs happen to many people as they age. These are smooth, rounded growths that are most commonly harmless and painless However, bone spurs can press on nerve roots or impact surrounding muscles which, in turn, leads to neck pain. Bone spurs are also a reason behind stiff necks. Additionally, when they do press on nerve roots, it can result in numbness or tingling through the shoulder and arms. Furthermore, bone spurs can trigger cervicogenic headaches. Once again, all of these side effects can make it challenging to function on a daily basis.
- Stress or mental health—Believe it or not, your mental health can have a huge impact on your neck pain. Stress is a driving force behind many people’s experiences with neck pain. Being overly stressed can cause the muscles to tighten or for the cervical spine to be thrown out of alignment. This then turns into poor posture, bad sleep habits, and general feelings of unhappiness. Even if it doesn’t feel like it would benefit you, be sure to prioritize your mental health to reduce the chances of experiencing more unnecessary neck pain.
How Can You Treat Neck Pain?
Neck pain without injury is something that many people feel they must live with. However, there are ways to alleviate the symptoms when they flare up. Treatment options could include something as simple as changing the position you sleep in. Other times, more hands-on treatment is necessary. For example, physical therapy might help to increase the range of motion in a stiff neck.
When neck pain is really severe, patients might need to take medications to better manage the symptoms. But in cases where taking pain medication isn’t a viable option, other forms of treatment could be needed.
Most importantly, taking the right actions to prevent neck pain before it begins is the best form of pain management. Being mindful of your posture, the way you sleep, and your stress levels is key to stopping the pain before it begins.
If you find that you are particularly stressed or strained, take the time to speak with others who understand the trials of neck pain. One great way to do this is to share your experiences with the Pain Resource Community. Here, you can trade tips and tricks on treating neck pain and have a place of support on the days where you need it most.
When Should You Be Concerned About Neck Pain?
Neck pain without injury is something to keep an eye on, even when you think it’s no big deal. The truth is that any medical issue that has to do with the neck can turn into a more serious issue if it’s not addressed or treated properly.
Pain that starts in the neck could end up morphing into migraines, nerve pain, and chronic ailments. So, if something doesn’t feel right, be sure to seek professional medical advice. If you aren’t sure how to reach out to a trusted health care provider or you feel overwhelmed knowing where to start, you might find it helpful to speak with others who are on the same path as you. Chronic pain advocacy groups are a great resource to guide you in feeling more confident about expressing your needs and voicing your experiences.
Remember, even though neck pain is common, you don’t have to suffer through its side effects alone or without hope. Keep track of your symptoms and know that the right treatment is out there for you.
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