The high prevalence of chronic persistent neck pain not only leads to disability but also has a significant economic, societal, and health impact.
The pain and stiffness usually gets better after a few days, and is not a sign of a more serious neck problem or underlying condition.
You can get a painful or stiff neck if you sleep in an awkward position, use a computer keyboard for a prolonged period of time, or even from sitting in a draught.
Anxiety and stress can also sometimes cause tension in your neck muscles, which can lead to pain in your neck.
However, there is often no obvious cause of neck pain and doctors will refer to it as 'non-specific'.
Whatever the cause of neck pain or a stiff neck, the advice is generally the same: carry on with your normal daily activities, keep active and take painkillers to relieve the symptoms. See below for some more specific advice.
Take regular doses of paracetamol, ibuprofen, or a combination of the two, to control pain – ibuprofen gel can be rubbed onto your neck as an alternative to taking tablets. Always follow the dosage instructions that come with the medication.
Sleep on a low, firm pillow at night – avoid using two pillows because it may force your neck to bend unnaturally.
Check your posture – bad posture can aggravate the pain and it may have caused it in the first place. Find out how to sit correctly.
Avoid wearing a neck collar – there is no evidence to suggest that wearing a neck collar will help to heal your neck, and it is better to keep your neck mobile.
Avoid driving until the pain and stiffness have gone – it may prevent you turning your head to view traffic.
No high quality evidence was found, indicating that there is still uncertainty about the effectiveness of exercise for neck pain. Using specific strengthening exercises as a part of routine practice for chronic neck pain, cervicogenic headache and radiculopathy may be beneficial. Research showed the use of strengthening and endurance exercises for the cervico-scapulothoracic and shoulder may be beneficial in reducing pain and improving function. However, when only stretching exercises were used no beneficial effects may be expected. Future research should explore optimal dosage 1).
Some people suddenly wake up one morning to find their neck twisted to one side and stuck in that position. This is known as acute torticollis and is caused by injury to the neck muscles.
Torticollis can occur after long exposure to a cold draught, or after your neck has been in an unusual position.
Sometimes, neck pain is caused by the 'wear and tear' that occurs to the bones and joints in your neck. This is a type of arthritis called cervical spondylosis.
Cervical spondylosis occurs naturally with age. It does not always cause symptoms, although in some people the bone changes can cause neck stiffness. Nearby nerves can also be squashed, resulting in pain that radiates from the arms, pins and needles and numbness in the hands and legs.
Among multiple modalities of treatments prescribed in the management of neck and upper extremity pain, surgical, interventional and conservative modalities have been described. Cervical epidural injections are also common modalities of treatments provided in managing neck and upper extremity pain.