Neck pain can be a nuisance at best and debilitating at worst. Here are two common culprits behind the pain:
Strained or Pulled Muscles
Strained and pulled muscles are the same thing. You strain your muscles when you stretch your muscle or tendon too far, which causes tears in your muscle/tendon fibers. This is different from a sprain, which is what happens when you stretch ligaments too far (ligaments are the things that connect one bone to another bone). Strained muscles are fairly common; on the other hand, athletes and other active individuals are at the highest risk for getting sprains.
If your neck feels really stiff, or if you have a hard time moving or rotating your head, you might have a strained neck muscle. If you have a minor strain, you can try alleviating the pain by alternating with hot and cold compresses, which will help with healing and reducing inflammation. Over-the-counter meds might help with the pain, as well. If it’s a more serious strain, or if the pain lasts for longer than a couple of days, seriously consider seeing a doctor.
There are two different causes of pinched nerves: herniated discs and degeneration.
To understand how a herniated disc can cause a pinched nerve, let’s first look at the anatomy of the spine. A spinal disc is the little “shock absorber” that sits between two vertebrae in the spine. It’s what allows your spine to move back and forth, side to side. There are two layers to a spinal disc: the outer layer (called the annulus fibrosus) and the inner layer (called the nucleus pulposus). The outer layer simply protects and contains the inner layer. When the outer portion is weak, sometimes the inner portion leaks out and presses against (or pinches) the nearby nerve. Chemicals released by the broken disc can also irritate the nerve, causing more pain.
Degenerative disc disease can cause bone spurs, which can pinch your nerves. Bone spurs are abnormal growths of the bone, and if the growths get large enough, they can rub on the nerve root or pinch it.
Pinched nerves are often painful (and sometimes, that’s your only symptom). It might be centralized to the area where the pinched nerve is, or it might radiate through other parts of your body. You might feel pins and needles or numbness.
Your treatment will depend on your body and the severity of the pinched nerve. You may need physical therapy or pain medications. A few people with herniated discs require surgery to fix the issue. Talk with your doctor about what options are best for you.
Since each patient is unique, don’t rely simply on the information you find on the web to give yourself a diagnosis. Schedule an appointment with a doctor who can help you figure out what’s causing your neck pain and what you can do to fix it. You can schedule an appointment with 360 Back and Spine by calling 682-223-1406 today!