Managing that Pain in the Neck - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Published on June 10, 2013

Managing that Pain in the Neck

No, we’re not talking about your brother-in-law, or the new guy in the office. We’re actually talking about the issue of pain stemming from your neck, and how you can both manage and prevent it from getting worse.

Considering that your neck is in a rather unprotected location and is used quite often, it’s not surprising that many people suffer from pain in this part of the body. Whether the discomfort is caused by an injury to the muscles or tendons, a herniated cervical disk, or arthritis, neck pain can often be debilitating and just plain annoying.

If you suffer from a crick in the neck or a pinching pain, the first step to treating the problem is to visit your doctor for a diagnosis. So what should you expect? Depending on your symptoms, your doctor might take a blood test to see if you have an inflammatory disease, or he might conduct an MRI or CT scan to get detailed images of the neck. An electromyogram (EMG) might also be necessary to test the nerve function in your neck as well.

And once you’ve discovered the cause, you’ll be able to begin treatment. In addition to medication, physical therapy, or even surgery (in severe cases), you should also consider making everyday lifestyle adjustments to protect your neck and reduce pain.

At Work:

  • Use a headset if you spend a lot of time on the phone.

  • Adjust your computer screen so that’s it’s at eye level, which will keep you from constantly straining your neck down.
  • Avoid bending over your work. Maintain good posture when working at your desk by sitting up straight and keeping your shoulders relaxed with your feet flat on the floor.
  • Take short frequent breaks throughout the day to stretch your body and neck muscles.
  • Make sure you have good lower back support; buy a small pillow for additional support if necessary.

At Home:

  • Strengthen and protect your neck by exercising it gently at least once a day.
  • If your neck is sore, apply an ice pack wrapped in a towel for 15-30 minutes several times a day.
  • Loosen sore and tight muscles by adding heat to your neck. Take a warm shower or place a heating pad or warm towel onto your neck.
  • If you lift weights, be sure to lift with your knees and not your back, which can cause injury or intensify neck pain.
  • Manage stress levels if this is the root of your neck pain. Try meditation techniques and consider getting a massage to loosen the muscles and remove tension in your neck.

When You Sleep:

  • Avoid sleeping on your stomach, which can cause you to keep your neck twisted or bent.
  • Make sure you have a firm mattress and box spring to provide extra support, especially if you often wake up with a sore neck.
  • Sleep on a pillow that keeps your head rested comfortably and straight. Cervical pillows or rolls are great for those who sleep on their back. If you sleep on your side, make sure the pillow is situated between your shoulders and your head.

Crozer-Keystone offers outpatient physical therapy services at four locations in Delaware County (Upland, Drexel Hill, Folsom and Springfield). For more information, call 1-77-CK-MOTION (1-877-256-6846) or visit http://www.crozerkeystone.org/services/orthopedics/services/rehabilitation/.

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