Neck pain

Man with neck pain

What is neck pain?

A pain in the neck can come from an injury, abnormality, or tension in the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and nerves of the neck, or in the top part of the spinal column, either in the discs, nerves, or the vertebrae themselves.

What are the causes of neck pain?

Neck pain can be caused by a number of things. The most common causes include:

  • Bad posture
  • Sleeping with the neck in an awkward position, causing it to lock up
  • Physical injury, e.g. as the result of a fall or a traffic accident
  • A pinched nerve

Can neck pain be prevented?

There are certain steps you can take to help prevent neck pain:

  • Maintain good posture
  • Do not keep your neck in the same position for hours on end, e.g. looking at a computer
  • Do not sleep on your front
  • Sleep on a firm mattress
  • Keep your head at the same height as the rest of your body when in bed
  • Do not twist your neck in bed
  • While sitting, make sure you are sat upright, roll your shoulders back gently and move your neck back.

Treatments for neck pain

In many cases, neck pain can be eased with over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. Applying heat or cold compresses can also be useful. Neck exercises can help, especially if the cause of the pain is muscular. Sleeping with a low, firm pillow should help the neck return to normal and prevent the pain from returning.

You should consult a doctor if:

  • The pain persists despite taking painkillers
  • It still hurts or is stiff after a few weeks
  • There are other symptoms, such as tingling or cold limbs
  • Anything about the neck pain worries you
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