Neck pain is one of the common problems faced by millions of people in the United States. A neck pain is often diagnosed as cervicalgia.
Cervicalgia causes are vast. It is important to determine the root cause of the problem so that proper care and treatment will be given to the patient.
What is Cervicalgia ?
It comes from the Latin word “cervic”, which means neck and Greek word “algos” meaning pain. Cervicalgia is the term used to denote an intense pain and discomfort in the cervical spine region. (1, 2, 3)
Cervicalgia ICD-10 : M54.2
Picture 1: Images showing how a simple whiplash can cause neck pain.
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Image 2: The muscles and ligaments of the neck.
Picture Source: kidshealth.org
Picture 3: Chiropractic approach for cervicalgia.
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- Sharp pain in the neck, especially when you suddenly move your head.
- Localized pain that radiates outward.
- Some patients complain of stiff neck while others are unable to turn their head because of severe pain.
- Patients described the condition as a crick in the neck.
- A feeling of tightness in the neck that can extend into the upper back.
- The neck and back can be tender to touch.
- Headache (3)
- Burning and aching sensation in the upper back and neck.
- Pain is intense when trying to rotate the head/neck. (4, 5)
What are the causes of cervicalgia?
- Injury – It is the leading cause of cervicalgia. If you had been in a situation where you could be possibly hurt such as vehicular accident, then you should consult your doctor, especially if you are suffering from neck and back pain.
- Neck strain/whiplash – A tear in the neck muscles can cause the muscles to swell and tighten. It would take some time for the muscles to recover. However, if you don’t let the muscle rest for a while, then it could be possible that the condition will get worst leading to a condition called cervicalgia.
- Stress – It is one of the reasons for neck pain. Many people unconsciously clench their neck and shoulder muscles when they are under a great deal of stress. Over time, the muscles get exhausted and overworked leading to a more serious condition like cervicalgia.
- Ergonomic reasons – Don’t you know that the chair and tables you use in the workplace can contribute to the development of cervicalgia? It is important to use an ergonomically chair and tables to avoid neck and back pain. (5, 6)
- Kyphosis – It is also called cervical posture syndrome. It is common in athletes such as cyclist, bodybuilders, and baseball catchers. Patients with kyphosis have their shoulders rounded forward and their chins are poking forward. It is caused by repetitive movement causing an improper posture. (6)
- Muscle tightness – Tightness of the muscles in the neck and upper back alters the proper circulation of blood. Without adequate blood supply, the muscles will be starved of essential nutrients. Over time, the muscles get weak and tighten. (7, 8)
The treatment for cervicalgia varies depending on the severity of symptoms and underlying cause. Chronic cervicalgia should be treated using advanced treatment modalities. Initial treatment includes prescription anti-inflammatory and painkillers.
The doctor will also advise wearing a temporary cervical collar to support the head. It also gives ample time for the neck muscles to rest and heal. Over the counter pain reliever can also help in alleviating the pain. If you are suffering from kyphosis, the doctor will strictly advise performing cervicalgia exercises.
Simple stretching exercises can help relax the muscles of the upper chest and neck. If the condition does not improve despite the treatments mentioned above, then you need to see your doctor. (4, 8, 9, 10)
Home treatment for cervicalgia
- Relax the muscles – Avoid doing strenuous activities for three days, especially if your neck and back are badly hurt. Avoid doing weight-bearing activities include lifting heavy objects, running, or playing tennis.
- Alternate hot and cold compress – Cold compress helps alleviate the pain and inflammation. On the other hand, warm compress eases the tension to the muscles. It also improves the circulation of blood and hastens the healing process.
- Over the counter pain relievers – There are various types of pain relievers that you can easily purchase over the counter. These pain relievers also function as an anti-inflammatory. They can alleviate both the pain and inflammation. (2, 3)
- Cervicalgia exercise – Simple exercises can help improve the condition of your neck. By simply stretching your neck, you will be able to improve the condition of the neck muscles. Cervicalgia exercises include neck stretches, head turns, and face forward. Do not perform strenuous exercises without consulting your doctor.
- Maintain a good posture – Make sure you maintain a good posture, be it a standing or sitting position. Not maintaining a good posture can strain the muscles and ligaments that support the different parts of the body. When sitting, you should avoid crossing your legs. Put your feet on the floor and create a little space in between the back of the knees and the front of the seat. When standing, make sure that your weight is focused on the balls of your feet. Make sure that the knees are slightly bent. When lying down, see to it that the mattress suits your body. For neck and back pain, you should use a firm mattress. If you tend to sleep on the side, you should put a pillow between your knees to keep your body in correct alignment. (1, 5, 7, 8)
- Consult a chiropractor – If you are suffering from aches and pains in various parts of your body, then you should see a chiropractor. A chiropractic adjustment can help align your spine thereby targeting various parts of the body that suffer from intense ache and pain. Chiropractors are experts in working with the cervical spine. During the procedure, you will hear cracking, which is a result of the chiropractor’s controlled forces being applied to your joints. There are a lot of doctors specializing in chiropractic medicine. However, most insurance carriers do not cover chiropractic work. So, when planning to avail chiropractic procedure, you have to inquire ahead of time so that you will have an idea on the cost of treatment. (2, 8, 9, 10)