Neck pain

Neck pain occurs frequently and often doesn’t require a medical consultation. Symptoms usually improve within a few days. The medical term for neck pain is “cervicalgia”. Neck pain often goes hand in hand with stiffness and problems moving the head.

Unless the pain persists for several weeks or is experienced alongside other serious symptoms, an X-ray is not needed.

Causes

Most neck pain is caused by spinal problems, such as muscle contractions. Neck pain may appear

due to the head being poorly positioned while sleeping, prolonged computer work or after a fall. Fortunately, serious causes are rare. For example, neck pain may be caused by a herniated disc or, in osteoporosis sufferers, by a vertebra fracture. Chronic neck pain is often caused by other conditions. It may be a symptom of osteoarthritis for example.

Treatment

Treatment depends on the severity of symptoms and their cause. In most cases, symptoms disappear within a few days.

Medicine can help to relieve the pain: medicine such as Paracetamol (Panadol, Dafalgan, etc.) can be used, occasionally along with anti-inflammatories, such as ibuprofen (Irfen, Algifor, etc.). If the pain is severe, medicine combining Paracetamol and codeine can be taken.

In addition to taking medicine, it is very important to keep moving, depending on the pain of course: you will recover more quickly if you remain active rather than staying seated or lying down all day.

If the pain does not improve after 5 to 7 days, physiotherapy may be suggested.

Warning

In some cases you may need to see a doctor: if you have a headache, unexplained weight loss, cancer or if the pain persists at night. In the following situations, an emergency appointment is necessary: if you’ve had a bump (a fall for example), or if you’re experiencing fever, visual impairment, a tingling sensation in the arm, loss of feeling or strength in the hand or arm or balance problems.

How can I prevent neck pain?

First of all, you need to try to identify the cause of the neck pain, specifically if it is caused by muscle tension. Spending a long time using a computer, tablet or smartphone can lead to pain which could have been prevented by avoiding spending a long time in an uncomfortable position. Taking relaxation breaks and doing exercises can also be useful, especially for pain related to stress and anxiety. A good mattress and pillow will also help you limit the risks of the pain coming back.

For more information

You can find further information on the page My neck hurts, I have neck pain on the Planète santé website or by watching the Neck Pain video (1 minute) extract from the CHUV’s medical atlas.

 

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