Neck Pain? Stiff Neck? The right pillow can help alleviate stiff and sore necks.
What is Neck Pain?
Neck pain is a very common condition that tends to affect women more than men. Most people will experience neck pain at some point in their life. The neck is part of the spine, and neck pain is very similar to lower back pain but in a different part of the body.
Neck pain is rarely caused by a serious illness and will often disappear within a week. Neck pain can range from mild discomfort to a severe burning pain. A common cause is muscular strain or tension. This may occur after sleeping in an awkward position or after unaccustomed exercise. Accidents occurring during manual handling work such as lifting, pushing or carrying may also cause neck pain. In most cases the pain will disappear after rest, massage or taking mild pain killers such as paracetamol.Very occasionally neck pain may be caused by a problem in the discs between the neck bones or vertebrae. The pain tends to be a burning feeling and is associated with symptoms such as tingling or numbness in the arms.
Sleeping on an unsuitable pillow may often be the cause of neck pain. Your sleeping position is another possible source of neck problems. Does your pillow cause you to sleep with your neck at an angle, either too high or too low? If so, you may want to invest in a new pillow for neck pain. Also, remember that pillows don't last forever and will need to be replaced regularly. A mattress that doesn't offer good back support can also be a source of neck discomfort.
What are the signs of neck pain?
- Pain in the neck area and stiff, sore neck muscles in the shoulders
- Headaches and migraines
- Numbness or ’pins and needles’ in the shoulders, arms and hands
- Sudden and intense pain can cause abnormal neck posture, forcing the head to turn to one side. This condition is known as torticollis.
What causes neck pain?
The neck supports the weight of your head, and is very vulnerable. Many things can trigger neck pain, including:
- Motor vehicle accidents involving whiplash
- Muscle tension caused by stress and fatigue
- Trauma or injury
- Postural problems caused by prolonged use of a computer keyboard
- Falling asleep in an awkward position
- Sleeping on an incorrect pillow
How can neck pain be treated?
Most cases of neck pain disappear without treatment or with the help of mild pain killers. If the pain lasts for a few days or more, your doctor may prescribe other pain killers, or suggest physical therapy such as physiotherapy, chiropractic or osteopathy. It is important to keep mobile and try to continue your normal daily activity even when you are sore. Most cases of neck pain are due to soft tissue (muscles and ligament) strain and will settle with time. There is usually no need for investigations such as x-rays or scans. If the neck pain has lasted for longer than three months, it is called ‘chronic neck pain’. Chronic neck pain may require more investigation and specialist treatment.
What can I do about neck pain or a stiff neck?
People with weak neck muscles are more likely to suffer neck pain. Inactivity weakens muscles and makes the soft tissues more prone to strain. An exercise programme can help to strengthen the neck. Your occupational health worker can give you advice.
If you have neck pain, try to stay as active as possible and keep up your normal everyday activities. If you are given a neck-collar, try not to use this for more than one or two days. Holding the neck immobile for a prolonged period, either with a collar or by your own effort, will cause more pain and disability. Neck pain will often disappear within a few weeks.
Neck pain caused by a whiplash injury in a car accident is usually a sign of damage to the soft tissue. It is important to continue with normal daily activities as much as possible as this has been shown to reduce the length of time you will feel pain. If your neck pain has lasted for longer than a week, it is a good idea to consult your back care professional.