- Pain in
the back, side or front of the neck.
Muscle Strain: New
onset neck pain is often from strained neck muscles caused by sleeping in an
awkward position; cradling the telephone between neck and shoulder for an extended
conversation; painting a ceiling; reading in bed; reaching for something that
was difficult to get; sitting in the front row of a movie theater; looking at
something that requires extreme bending or turning of neck; prolonged typing;
and so on.
Muscle Tension/Spasm: Muscle tension neck pain is one of the
most common causes of new onset neck pain. It is seen in every age group and
is related to stressful situations in the workplace and at home. The pain may
radiate (shoot, spread) into the upper back and into the scalp. Frequently,
individuals with this type of muscle tension neck pain will report that the
discomfort is worse toward the end of the day. Therapy for this type of pain
should be directed at stress reduction, good posture, and gentle neck exercises.
See More Appropriate Topic (instead of this one) If
WHEN TO CALL YOUR DOCTOR FOR NECK PAIN
Call 911 Now (you may need an ambulance) If:
Call Your Doctor Now (night or day) If:
- You feel
weak or very sick
- Fever and stiff neck (can't touch chin to chest)
- Headache and stiff neck (can't touch chin to chest)
- Weakness in the arms or legs
- Numbness or tingling in arms, upper back or legs
- Problems with bowel or bladder control
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pain
- Intravenous drug abuse
- Head is twisting to one side (i.e. turning against your will)
Call Your Doctor Within 24 Hours (between 9 am
and 4 pm) If:
- You think
you need to be seen
- Tenderness or swelling of front of neck over windpipe
- Neck pain radiates (shoots, spreads) into the arm or hand
Call Your Doctor During Weekday Office Hours If:
- You have
other questions or concerns
- Neck pain lasts more than 2 weeks
- Neck pains are a recurrent problem
- Over 50 years old and you have not experienced similar neck
- Neck pain lasts more than 3 days and it interferes with normal
activities or awakens from sleep
Self Care at Home If:
- Mild neck
pain and you don't think you need to be seen
HOME CARE ADVICE FOR MILD NECK PAIN
Prolonged turning of the head or working in an awkward position can
cause muscle pain in the back of the neck. With treatment, the pain
usually resolves in 1 to 2 weeks.
Local Cold Or Heat: During the first 2 days after a mild injury, apply a cold pack or
an ice bag (wrapped in a towel) for 20 minutes four times a day.
After 2 days, apply
a heating pad or hot water bottle to the most painful area for 20 minutes whenever
the pain flares up. Wrap hot water bottles or heating pads in a towel
to avoid burns.
Sleep:Sleep on your back, not the abdomen. Sleep with a neck collar
- use a foam neck collar (from a pharmacy) OR a small towel wrapped around the
neck (Reason: keep the head from moving too much during sleep).
- After 48 hours of protecting the neck, begin gentle stretching
- Improve the tone of the neck muscles with 2 or 3 minutes of
gentle stretching exercises per day such as touching the chin to each shoulder,
touching the ear to each shoulder, and moving the head forward and backward.
- Don't apply any resistance during these stretching exercises.
Pain Medication: For pain relief, take acetaminophen every 4-6 hours
(e.g. Tylenol; adult dosage 650 mg) OR ibuprofen every 6-8 hours (e.g. Advil,
Motrin; adult dosage 400 mg).
- Do not take ibuprofen if you have stomach
problems, kidney disease, are pregnant, or have been told by your
doctor to avoid this type of anti-inflammatory drug. Do not take
ibuprofen for more than 7 days without consulting your doctor.
- Do not take acetaminophen if you have liver disease.
- Read the package instructions thoroughly on all medications
that you take.
- Good Body Mechanics:
- Lifting: Stand close to the object to be lifted. Keep your back
straight and lift by bending your legs. Ask for help if needed.
- Sleeping: Sleep on a firm mattress.
- Sitting: Avoid sitting for long periods of time without a break.
Avoid slouching. Place a pillow or towel behind your lower back for support.
- Computer screen: place at the level of your eyes.
- Posture: Maintain good posture.
Avoid: Avoid triggers that overstress the neck such as working with
the neck turned or bent backward, carrying heavy objects on the head, carrying
heavy objects with one arm (instead of both arms), standing on the head, contact
sports or even friendly wrestling.
- Call Your Doctor If:
- Numbness or weakness occurs
- Bowel or bladder problems occur
- Pain persists for more than 2 weeks
- You become worse or develop any of the "Call Your Doctor"
This information is not intended be a substitute for professional medical
advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full
responsibility for how you choose to use this information.
Adult HouseCalls Online. Copyright © 2000-2004
David Thompson, M.D. FACEP
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