If you're dealing with neck pain, you're not alone. According to the National Institutes of Health, neck pain affects "30% to 50% of adults in the general population in any given year." While there are myriad causes of neck pain, some are more common than others. Here are four of the most common causes of neck pain and what you can do to find relief.
1. Poor Posture
Poor posture is a common, yet easily solvable, cause of neck pain. If you work at a desk all day, chances are you're guilty of slouching over a computer or steering wheel. This strains the muscles in your neck. To combat this, be mindful of your posture throughout the day and try to sit up straight with your shoulders back and your feet flat on the floor. When working at a computer, position the screen so that you don't have to crane your neck to see it. Taking frequent breaks to move around and stretch your neck muscles can also help alleviate tension and pain.
Whiplash is an injury that occurs when your head is jerked suddenly. This is a common injury in a car accident or during contact sports, like football or hockey. Whiplash can strain your cervical spine and surrounding muscles, resulting in neck pain and stiffness. The best treatment for whiplash is time, as it takes most people several weeks to recover. In severe cases, however, whiplash may require physical therapy or even surgery.
Arthritis is another leading cause of neck pain. Many different types of arthritis can affect the neck, including:
- Osteoarthritis. This wear-and-tear type of arthritis often comes with aging.
- Rheumatoid arthritis. The Cleveland Clinic states that rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory condition, affects 1.3 million people.
- Cervical spondylosis. This degenerative condition causes damage to the cervical spine or the first seven vertebrae.
If you're suffering from arthritis-related neck pain, your doctor may recommend over-the-counter or prescription anti-inflammatory medication, physical therapy, or acupuncture.
4. Herniated Discs
A herniated disc occurs when one of the discs between the vertebrae in your spine becomes damaged and begins to bulge out. This puts pressure on surrounding nerves and causes symptoms like numbness, tingling, and weakness. Treatment may include rest and home care measures. More severe cases, however, may require corticosteroid injections or surgery.
Neck pain is a very common problem that can have many different causes. Be sure to talk to your doctor if self-care measures aren't providing relief or if your neck pain is accompanied by other symptoms like dizziness, headache, arm weakness, or difficulty swallowing.