Chronic Neck Pain: Symptoms and Treatment

May 17, 2023

What is Chronic Neck Pain?

Chronic neck pain is pain that starts in the neck and can be associated with radiating pain down one or both of your arms. Neck pain can interfere with your daily activities and reduce your quality of life. Fortunately, many causes of neck pain are not serious and can improve with proper treatment. If you are experiencing chronic neck pain and are not sure why, please schedule an appointment with a physician to discuss your symptoms and to come up with a treatment plan.

Common Symptoms of Neck Pain:

Some people describe their neck pain as a persistent ache, a stabbing or burning pain or shooting pain that travels from their neck to their shoulders or arms. Neck pain can also present in the following ways:

  • Headache
  • Stiffness in neck, shoulders or upper back
  • Being unable to turn your neck or tilt your head
  • Numbness or tingling in your shoulders or arms

Causes of Neck Pain:

There are quite a few causes of neck pain. Be sure to discuss symptoms with your physician to receive a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Causes of neck pain may include the following:

  • Muscle strain – overuse of neck muscles caused by too many hours on the computer or smartphone or reading in bed.
  • Aging/worn joints – neck joints tend to wear with age in response to wear and tear.
  • Nerve compression – herniated discs or bone spurs in the vertebrae of the neck can press on nerves branching out from the spinal cord.
  • Physical strain – can occur when one or more fibers in a neck muscle or tendon stretches too far, also called a pulled muscle.
  • Mental stress – tightening your muscles because you are stressed can lead to pain.
  • Cervical disc degeneration – a condition in which a vertebral disc in the neck has deteriorated or been damaged due to the natural aging process or injury.
  • Posture – muscles and ligaments that support the neck are strained from poor posture.
  • Arthritis – neck pain is the primary symptom of rheumatoid arthritis in the neck. You may feel a dull or throbbing ache in the back of your neck near the base of your skull. Swelling and stiffness can make it hard to move from side to side.
  • Cervical stenosis – occurs when the spinal canal narrows and compresses the spinal cord; it is usually caused by degeneration associated with aging.
  • Disc degeneration – common symptoms include stiff neck, sharp nerve pain that radiates down the shoulder into the arm, hand or fingers, tingling or numbness down the shoulder to the hand, and pain gets worse with movement.

Ways to Prevent Neck Pain:

  • Use good posture – When standing and sitting, be sure your shoulders are in a straight line over your hips and your ears are directly over your shoulders. When using cell phones, tablets and other small screens, keep your head up and hold the device straight out rather than bending your neck to look down at the device.
  • Take frequent breaks when traveling or working at a computer – If you travel long distances or work long hours at your computer, get up, move around, and stretch your neck and shoulders.
  • Adjust your desk and chair – Keep the computer monitor at eye level. Knees should be slightly lower than hips. Use your chair’s armrests.
  • If you smoke, quit – Smoking can increase the risk of developing neck pain.
  • Avoid carrying heavy bags with straps over your shoulder – The weight can strain neck muscles.
  • Sleep in a healthy position – Your head and neck should be aligned with your body. Use a small pillow under your neck. Try sleeping on your back with your thighs elevated on pillows, which will flatten your spinal muscles.
  • Stay active – Increase your activity level to keep your muscles active.

Diagnosing and Treating Neck Pain:

Schedule an appointment with your physician if you believe you are experiencing chronic neck pain. Medical history will be taken and a physical exam will check for tenderness, numbness or muscle weakness. Imaging tests, such as X-rays, CT scans or MRIs are often ordered to help find the cause of your next pain. Treatments are available to help alleviate your pain and improve the movement in your neck.

These may include:

  • Pain medications and muscle relaxers.
  • Physical therapy.
  • Steroid injections.
  • Acupuncture.
  • Surgery.

When Non-Surgical Treatments Are Unsuccessful:

If your neck pain has been diagnosed as cervical disc degeneration, please visit the following link to learn more about Orthofix and the M6-C disc replacement procedure. Learn more about the M6-C Artificial Cervical Disc. At Orthofix, we believe you do not have to live with chronic neck pain. If you and your physician decide on a surgical option such as artificial disc replacement, your surgeon will remove the damaged disc and fill the space with an artificial disc. This unique product is designed to mimic natural structure and movement. Use the Find a Physician link provided here to locate and talk to a doctor about the benefits and risks of artificial disc replacement surgery.

Find a physician to start your journey here.