There's only one pain that can literally, be said to be a pain in the neck - and that's neck pain!
You might think it's not a terribly common problem, but in fact, most of us will experience neck pain at some point in our lives, and between 10 and 15 per cent of people may be putting up with it right now.
Although it's an annoying problem, for most people, it won't have a major impact on day-to-day life, and there are quite a few things you can do to help manage your neck pain now, and prevent it in the future.
What causes neck pain?
In some cases, the cause of neck pain may not be known, or it could be due to a whiplash injury. However, there are some factors that can increase the risk of developing neck pain:
- Muscle strain. If you're stuck in front of a computer all day long, then there is a chance you may end up with neck pain.
- Repetitive work. Examples of this type of work include working in a factory production line, or work that requires very precise movements, such as sewing.
- Physical activity. Activities such as lifting heavy items can cause neck pain.
It may sound like a cliché, but having a positive mental attitude can make a difference. This is especially true for neck pain.
Becoming worried, angry or frustrated can mean you find it harder to get over a bout of neck pain, while being positive and finding ways to cope can help.
Things you can do that can ease the pain include:
- Doing neck exercises. Although you may not feel like it, keeping your neck moving is important as it helps to prevent long-term problems. The NHS Choices website recommends simple neck exercises to help strengthen your neck muscles and improve your range of movement.
- Trying hot and cold therapies. In the first 48 hours after you have hurt your neck, it can help to apply ice packs for five to 10 minutes to the affected area.
- For pain that lasts for 48 hours or longer, the application of heat to the affected area may help reduce pain and relax the muscles.
- Using a firm pillow at night. Try a pillow that supports the hollow of the neck.
- Wearing neck collars/braces. These should only be used under the supervision of a physiotherapist, and for as short a time as possible (two to four days). Experts now believe they are less effective than keeping the neck moving.
- Help relieve the pain by taking paracetamol or ibuprofen. Always read the label and follow the dosage instructions on the packet.
- If the pain or stiffness persists, speak to your doctor. They may be able to refer you to a physiotherapist if necessary.
Of course, prevention is better than cure, so take regular computer breaks, improve your posture, and exercise regularly (including neck exercises).
Taking a little more care when doing everyday things like lifting and carrying bags can also help you take control of that annoying pain in the neck!
This guide is to provide general information about neck pain. If you are unsure of your symptoms or need further information, seek advice from your doctor.