Neck pain is a common complaint. It can be a result of poor posture, such as leaning over a desk or computer. Causes of neck pain include; muscle strain, joint wear and tear, compression of the nerve due to disc herniation or bony spurs, injuries, arthritis and other diseases.
Symptoms of Neck Pain
Neck pain can be simply felt as stiffness or tightness, causing reduction in the movement of the head and neck. In some cases it can be accompanied by shooting pains down the arms or numbness and weakness in the arms or hands. Neck pain can also cause tension headaches.
Treatment for Neck Pain
Pain relief medication, anti-inflammatory pain killers, muscle relaxants or tricyclic antidepressants used for pain my be prescribed. Physiotherapy exercises and stretches can help to restoring muscle function and optimize posture. For more severe cases, traction and short-term immobilization using a soft collar to take away the pressure off the structures of the neck. Steroid and lidocaine injections can also help with the pain. Rarely, surgery may be needed to relieve spinal cord compression.
Integrative & Complementary medicine
Neck tension is also commonly caused by anxiety and stress, which can be considerably alleviated using complementary therapies.
Acupuncture research has shown it to be useful for pain relief and for this reason recommended by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) for the treatment of pain. It is a good drug-free alternative option. Acupuncture stimulates muscles, nerves and other local tissue to release endorphins and other neurohumoral factors changing the way pain is perceived by the brain and spinal cord, thus reducing pain symptoms. Additionally, it reduces inflammation by releasing vascular and immunomodulating factors, as well as enhances micro blood circulation which helps to disperse inflammatory products.
Nutrition: It may be a surprise for people to learn that good nutrition is important when managing musculoskeletal pain. A healthy weight is a major factor influencing back pain. Bones, muscles, ligaments and other structures in the spine need good level of nutrients to keep them strong and functioning well. This includes; calcium, vitamin A, B, C, D, iron and magnesium.
Aromatherapy & Massage is very effective if the neck pain is due to muscular tension, fatigue or spasm. Regular massage will help to re-educate the tense muscles assisting them to relax. Many of the essential oils help to reduce pain symptoms, e.g. lavender, marjoram, rosemary and eucalyptus.
Other therapy: Chiropractic, osteopathy, exercise, qi gong, acupressure, yoga, heat therapy and relaxation techniques can be very useful to reduce pain symptoms. Herbal treatments with anti-inflammatory supplements such as devil’s claw and white willow bark have shown to be effective in symptom management. Other self-management measures include improvement in posture, stretching, use of chair lower back support.
See Self-Care Acupressure for Neck pain resource Here.
- Neck pain and stiff neck. (2012). NHS Choices.
- Nonspecific neck pain. (2014). Patient.co.uk.
- Neck pain. (no date). British Acupuncture Council.
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