Cervical Pain: Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatments, Risk factors, and Precautions

Cervical pain occurs due to damage in the bones, ligaments or muscles; damage in the spinal cord or nerves can also lead to such a pain. Old age people are mostly affected by cervical pain as with age our body’s ability to repair decreases with the increase of age. But in this fact lies a common misconception that can be very problematic; when a person of any age faces a neck pain he/she ignores it most of the time thinking it’s just a minor thing and can only occur to people who are old. Avoiding the problem will worsen the condition and the great thing is minor neck pain can be well dealt with home remedies and care.

What is Cervical pain?

Cervical pain arises due to cervical osteoarthritis or cervical spondylolysis. The pain is caused due to changes in the bone, joints or disc that are connected to the neck and one of the main reason for this pain is wear and tear of the bones and cartilages. In young adults, the cause of cervical pain may be due to some other factors.

Whenever a neck pain occurs the first thing that a person does is take rest or gulp down a pain-killer medicine. For certain kinds of cervical pain resting for a short amount of time may provide relief but for pains that recur and are chronic, rest can have reverse effects and can worsen it. While it is also or appropriate to fully discard any kind of physical movement around the neck as it can contribute to stiffness, more pain and muscle atrophy. It is a myth that getting complete rest will improve the condition sooner; therefore it is advisory to not skip exercises such as swimming, yoga and walking.

Cervical pain comprises of different severity levels that can scale up from mild to severe and the treatment method differs at each stage. In the initial stage cervical pain exercise, certain medications, and home remedies might work really well.

Symptoms of cervical pain

Cervical pain caused due to technology can lead to long-term problems, people most of the times ignore with the thought that, “I will use my phone/tablet less this time or take a break from the office and the pain around the neck will vanish”. Sadly, things don’t work the way we think it’s meant to be. If any kind of pain arises in the neck area, letting go some habits like such will not create much difference as the process of degeneration of the disc between the vertebrae of the cervical spine might have already begun.

The end result may lead to being the early onset of arthritis of the spine. Some of the symptoms of cervical cancer are-

  • Decrease in the ability to move the head
  • Pain in the fingers
  • Frequent headaches
  • Experiencing muscle tightness and spasms
  • Worsening of the pain that may occur while driving or working at a computer, if the head is positioned at one place for a long time
  • Pain or numbness in the shoulder, hand, and arm
  • Trouble while walking
  • Weakness in the hands or legs
  • Loss of balance
  • Hearing a popping noise, grinding or sensation while turning the neck

Causes of cervical pain

It has been seen that most of the cases of lower back pain can cause neck pain, along with that damage to the spinal cord and nerves can also arise neck pain. Some of the causes of cervical pain are-

  • Injury- injury due to an accident or any other reason in the neck area can cause cervical pain
  • Bone spurs- an outgrowth of a bone that presses against other spinal nerves and spinal cord arises pain in the neck
  • Dehydrated spinal discs- discs shaped structures are present between the spine that may dry out at times which can get rubbed causing cervical pain that is chronic
  • Overuse of the neck area- bad sitting posture or working for long hours by sitting on one position can put pressure in the neck area and spine resulting in wear and tear.
  • Worn joints- every body parts over a period of time undergo wear and tear especially the joints that wear off with age. Osteoarthritis is a condition that damages the cartilage between the bones, after which the body forms bone spurs that causes pain and affects the joint motion.
  • Diseases- rheumatoid arthritis, cancer can cause cervical pain
  • Nerve compression
  • Muscle strains
  • Stress
  • Tumour- it can be malignant or benign which can grow to the nearby nerve and press against the nerve root causing pain.
  • Bad sleeping posture

Diagnosis of cervical pain

If the pain near your neck persists it is important to consult with the doctor. The doctor may gently press the neck area and shoulder to examine the severity of the pain and feel the trigger points or swollen glands. The area around the legs is also checked. For further analysis, the doctor may contact a few tests to note the touch sensation, the strength of the hands, arms, and fingers. Reflexes, blood flow, flexibility of the neck-arms, and gait (the manner one walks). The doctor may further understand by asking a few questions like-

-when did you start feeling the pain?

-where does the pain occur?

-how frequently does the pain occur or is the pain dull or kind of sharp?

-does the pain radiate down your arm?

-does the pain get worse while sneezing coughing or while performing any task?

-are you suffering from any other physical problems?

All these questions will help the doctor to get a clear idea about the condition and severity of the pain. Information gathered in the entire consultation helps to go forward with the required treatment as very patient suffering from cervical pain may or may not undergo the same treatment procedure.

Treatment of cervical pain

Home remedies can help a lot to heal a cervical pain if the pain occurs in moderate level; self-care for two or three weeks can erase the pain easily. If the pain stays for long it is important to reach out to the doctor as soon as possible. Therapy, medications like muscle relaxants, tricyclic antidepressants and surgical procedures are used to cure a cervical pain when other treatments options don’t work.

Therapy methods that are used to treat cervical pain are-

  • Traction– air bladder, pulleys, weights are used to gently stretch the neck. This therapy is carried out under the complete guidance of medical experts and therapist; it is not a therapy that can be performed at home. People suffering from pain related to nerve root irritation can get relief from traction
  • Physical therapy- many people are aloof about the correct body posture; an incorrect body posture can contribute a lot to cervical pain. Try to get some help from a physical therapist who can teach and guide about correct posture, neck-strengthening exercises, and alignment of the body.
  • Short-term immobilization- usage of a soft collar to support the neck can help to relieve pain by removing the pressure off the neck; but if such structures are used for more than 3 hours at one go or for more than two weeks, the soft collar may have a reverse effect and cause harm.
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)- in this therapy electrodes are placed on the skin area near the neck that passes tiny electric impulses that helps to relieve the pain.

Certain surgical procedures also help to get rid of chronic cervical pain-

  • Steroid injections– injections are prescribed by the doctor to inject near the roots of the nerve (the small facet joints in the bones of the cervical spine or at times into the muscles of the neck to get rid of the pain. Injections with numbing medications like lidocaine are also used.
  • Surgery- cervical pain may rarely require surgery but for patients with chronic pain surgery can be an option

Medical experts like chiropractors, osteopaths, and physiotherapists are all well trained to treat and cure cervical pain along with home remedies and home exercises.

Risk factors of cervical pain

One of the greatest risk factors of cervical pain is known to be age. Such pain often develops due to changes in the structure of the neck joints. Bone spurs, dehydration and disc herniation are the common signs of ageing.

List of risk factors of cervical pain include-

  • Genetic factors (any family member who is suffering or who has suffered cervical spondylosis)
  • Any kind of neck injuries
  • Working for extended hours, bad sitting posture can cause huge strain in the neck
  • Repeating the same neck movement for a long time or throughout the day (repetitive stress)
  • Holding the neck for too long in an uncomfortable position
  • Strenuous activities like wrestling or weight-lifting

You can talk with your doctor and prepare for alternative medications and treatment methods like acupuncture, massage, and chiropractic that can help relieve neck pain. Acupuncture is a method that uses thin needles in various points of the body, massage uses techniques to manipulate and relax the muscles of our body and chiropractic involves applying controlled and abrupt force to the joint to provide relief from pain.

Precautions of cervical pain

Mild cervical pain can be very well treated at home whereas choric pain requires medical attention else it can cause more discomfort for the patient.

Certain types of home remedies that can be practised are-

  • Use an ice pack or heating pad in the neck area to provide relief, it can be used twice a day
  • Practice exercise regularly that is centred to relax the muscles of the neck. Do note that all such exercises must be performed under the supervision of a trained physiotherapist
  • Try to wear a soft collar or brace that will minimize the movement. Wearing such a structure will help the muscles and ligaments rest and provide some time to the joints to recover.
  • Rest for some time to help your body to relax especially the neck area
  • Follow a healthy diet and include vitamin C and vitamin A rich food amply.

FAQs

Que 1. How long does cervical pain last?

Ans- If the cervical pain is acute it can last for 1 to 2 weeks and chronic neck pain may last till 3 months.

Que 2. What is the problem of cervical?

Ans- The most common problem with cervical pain is a stiff neck and neck pain

Que 3. How should I sleep with cervical pain?

Ans- Keep your spine straight while sleeping by using a pillow and don’t use too high or stiff pillow

Que 4. Is cervical pain dangerous?

Ans- Most of the cervical pain wears off with time but some cervical pain may indicate serious injury or illness that may require medical care.

Que 5. Does stress cause neck pain?

Ans- Yes, persistent stress can cause neck pain.

Que 6. What should I eat for cervical pain?

Ans- Consume vitamin C and vitamin A rich fruits and vegetables as much as possible

Que 7. Can exercise help neck pain?

Ans- Aerobic exercises can help to increase blood flow and help to reduce neck pain

Que 8. Which fruit is good for cervical?

Ans- Pink grapes are known to be good for cervical

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