The neck is a very vulnerable part of the spine. It is susceptible to injury due to poor posture and general “wear and tear” that the neck can face. Muscle, ligament, nerve, and bony spine injuries and wear and tear are common causes of neck and upper shoulder pain. Degenerative diseases, such as arthritis, can cause the spinal structures to break down and put pressure on the spinal cord or nerves. 

While a medical examination is necessary to identify the cause of the neck pain and to determine the appropriate course of treatment, neck pain that comes about without an acute injury can usually be treated initially with non-surgical methods. 

Below, we’ve gathered up the most common orthopedic causes for neck pain, and what you can do to help treat the pain at home.

Muscle Strain

While not quite as common as lower back pain, neck pain can be caused by muscle strain. Neck muscles can become fatigued and strained from poor posture and from having your head slouched forward for a prolonged period of time. 

Strains are graded on a scale ranging from mild to severe.  Grade I strains are mild and are often treated by modifying activity to a level where the pain is tolerated, without giving into complete bed rest. Also, taking over-the-counter pain medication is a common way to get past the pain of a mild strain.

If the pain lasts longer than one week, gets worse instead of better with time, or is associated with any numbness, tingling or weakness, it’s always in your best interest go to see your doctor or orthopedist.

Arthritis

As with other parts of your body, neck vertebra joints can deteriorate over time. When you experience arthritis in the neck, it is referred to as “Cervical Spondylosis”.

For many people, cervical spondylosis causes little to no symptoms. When symptoms do occur, they typically include pain and stiffness in the neck. It is sometimes worsened by looking up or looking down for a long time, or by activities in which the neck is held in the same position for a prolonged period of time—such as driving or reading a book.

At home care generally includes a combination of physical therapy, over the counter medication or muscle relaxants, ice/heat therapy. Your doctor may suggest other non-surgical treatments such as physical therapy, stretching exercises, medications or steroid injections.

Disc Disorders

Discs in your neck can herniate (protrude) and irritate nerves, causing pain. A herniated disc occurs when the soft substance that is normally contained to the inside of the disc (called the nucleus pulposus) escapes. To diagnose your pain, your doctor will perform a physical exam and may need to order an imagine study, such as MRI, CT scan, EMG, or X-ray. 

Standard treatment plans for at-home care include restricting your activity, ice/heat therapy, and taking over the counter medications such as NSAIDs. 

Sometimes, medical or surgical intervention is needed. In these cases, treatment options may include steroid injections, physical therapy, holistic therapy such as acupuncture, yoga, and massage, and surgery.

If you are experiencing neck problems or neck pain, please contact our Orthopedic Doctors online -24/7 at MoonlightOrtho.com, where we can offer a diagnosis and treatment recommendations via an online visit with a board-certified Orthopedic neck specialist.