Neck pain can affect all of us at some stage of our lives. It may occur because of a number of reasons, but for most of us it may be simply treated and prevented. Mild pain in the neck may occur from sitting in the wrong position, particularly when looking at a computer or screen, putting your head, neck and shoulders in an unnatural position for too long without regular changes of posture.
More severe or persistent neck pain may also involve injuries to the shoulder or collarbone, or from pinched nerves in the spine. Whiplash injuries, usually from motor vehicle accidents, are another major cause of persistent neck pain. Wearing an approved seat belt is common sense to help minimise whiplash or more serious injuries.
Neck pain may be described as dull, cramping, stabbing or a range of these, depending on the cause of the pain. Pain from pinched nerves is often described as burning or stabbing, whereas muscle injury pain is usually cramping, and often worsens on movement, particularly after a period of rest.
Neck pain as a result of arthritis in the spine can also pinch nerves as the vertebra collapse or change shape. Neck pain may vary in type and intensity, and may cause pain to spread or radiate to other areas of the body, such as the shoulder and further down the backbone. Pain may also cause muscle weakness, both from limiting movement in that area to prevent the pain occurring and from actual damage to the area.
If neck pain, or any pain, is severe or crushing, then it is important to consult your doctor or go to the emergency department of the nearest hospital at once in order to rule out the possibility of heart problems or other conditions that may cause pain to radiate out from the heart to other areas.
Your community pharmacist can advise you if any neck pain that you may be suffering from may be treated with treatments from the pharmacy. They will also refer you to your doctor, a physiotherapist or other health professional if needed.
Rest is helpful for mild neck pain or an injury so try to limit uncomfortable neck positions for two or three days after it first occurs. If you must work at a screen, have regular breaks, at least every 20 minutes. Use this break time to rotate the neck and shoulders or take a short walk for a minute or two before returning to the screen or keyboard again.
Mild pain relieving medicine is helpful, your pharmacist can advise on the best medicine and the correct dose for you in order to relieve the pain. It is important to not use pain reliever medicines to allow you to continue to do what caused the problem in the first place. Your pharmacist has the treatment and advice that will help you to manage and prevent neck pain.