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What is cervical (neck) pain?

Neck pain is a common condition experienced by men and women, usually in their middle age. It is also called cervical pain due to its origin in the cervical vertebrae. Cervical pain usually results from a musculoskeletal disorder and can range from a light pain in the muscles around the neck to severe difficulty with normal movements of the neck and even loss of sensation in the upper limbs.

What are its main associated signs and symptoms?

Neck pain can be an acute or chronic condition. Some common symptoms associated with neck pain include:

  • Stiffness in the neck muscles
  • Restriction of neck movements
  • Tingling sensation or numbness in the upper limbs
  • Pain in the neck area
  • Pain in the shoulders and upper limbs

A rare symptom you may experience is migraine attacks. In case of chronic pain, some neurological complications may arise.

What are its main causes?

Neck pain can be due to various reasons. The common causes are:

Rarely, the cause of neck pain can be a tumour growing in the neck area.

How is it diagnosed and treated?

The cause of neck pain is diagnosed based on a thorough medical history and physical examination. The following diagnostic tools may be used to confirm the diagnosis:

  • X-ray of the vertebral column
  • MRI of the neck
  • Blood examination for C-reactive protein and vitamin C and vitamin D, especially if the patient has been previously diagnosed with an inflammatory disorder

Treatment for neck pain includes:

  • Physiotherapy – short-term joint immobilisation
  • Neck exercises
  • Pulsed electromagnetic field therapy
  • Treatment with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs and muscle relaxants to relieve pain
  • Hot compresses

Chronic pain can be treated by:

  • Muscle strengthening and endurance exercises
  • Physiotherapy and diathermy
  • Analgesics, anti-inflammatory medications and muscle relaxants
  • Counselling
  • Alternative therapies like acupuncture
  • Surgery, if a neurological complication arises

To sum up, neck pain originates from the cervical area and can range from muscular pain to neurological complications. It can be treated with physiotherapy, exercise and medication. Good posture at work and proper exercise can help you prevent this painful condition.

  1. Medicines for Cervical Pain
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Dr. Deep Chakraborty

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  2. Binder AI. Neck pain.. BMJ Clin Evid. 2008 Aug 4;2008. PMID: 19445809
  3. Bart N Green. A literature review of neck pain associated with computer use: public health implications. J Can Chiropr Assoc. 2008 Aug; 52(3): 161–167. PMID: 18769599
  4. René Fejer. The prevalence of neck pain in the world population: a systematic critical review of the literature. Eur Spine J. 2006 Jun; 15(6): 834–848. PMID: 15999284
  5. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: US National Library of Medicine; Neck Injuries and Disorders
  6. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: US National Library of Medicine; Neck Injuries and Disorders
  7. Clinical Trials. Treatment of Cervical Pain in Chronic Migraine. U.S. National Library of Medicine. [internet].
  8. Clinical Trials. Manual Cervical Distraction: Measuring Chiropractic Delivery for Neck Pain Clinical Trial (MCD). U.S. National Library of Medicine. [internet].

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