Why You Shouldn’t Ignore Neck Pain

The seven small vertebrae that make up your neck have the challenging task of supporting your head, which is about 10 pounds, while also enabling the full range of head and neck movement. This combination of weight and mobility make your neck vulnerable to injuries and neck pain.

Sometimes, neck pain goes away in a few days, and you go on as if you never had a problem. But if your neck pain sticks around or is severe, it’s a sign that you have an underlying injury or disease that needs treatment.

At the Headache & Pain Center, we recommend that you promptly schedule an exam. Ignoring neck pain and putting off treatment only gives the source of your pain time to get worse, potentially leading to chronic pain and complications.

Common causes of neck pain

The most common causes of neck pain fall into two categories — strained muscles and compressed nerves — but there are several sources of these problems.

Strained muscles

Your neck is especially vulnerable to soft tissue injuries that pull, stretch, or tear the muscles and ligaments. These tissues are easily injured during athletic activities and over the course of everyday life. 

Bending your head while using electronics, poor posture, and sleeping in the wrong position can all contribute to neck pain.

Whiplash injuries

A whiplash injury pulls your neck muscles, so it could be included under “strained muscles.” Yet whiplash injuries can do more than strain soft tissues. 

Depending on the severity of the trauma, the forces of your head snapping back and forth can also damage nerves, affect the vertebrae, and cause widespread complications.

Degenerative disease

As you get older, changes occur in the vertebrae and discs in your neck. These changes lead to conditions such as herniated discs, facet joint arthritis, degenerative disc disease, and spinal stenosis. Degenerative conditions affecting your neck frequently pinch the spinal nerves.

Consequences of ignoring neck pain

When your neck pain doesn’t improve and you choose to ignore the problems, you can end up facing one of the following consequences:

Small problems get worse

One of the biggest risks of ignoring neck pain, as we’ve already implied, is that a small problem can get significantly worse. Even if you don’t suffer an injury, you could be headed for serious problems.

When you make the same neck movements every day, the soft tissues naturally develop tiny tears. At first, the pain can be mild and easy to ignore. As you keep moving your neck, though, those microtears get larger and inflammation develops. You end up with serious pain and stiffness.

Acute pain turns chronic

Ongoing pain has a long-term impact on your central nervous system. Untreated pain triggers changes in the nerves that carry pain messages, making them hypersensitive. As a result, you keep feeling chronic pain even after the problem that originally caused your acute pain heals.

Nerve damage affects arms and hands

When the cause of your neck pain also pinches the nerves, you can have sharp nerve pain in your neck, as well as arm pain and symptoms like tingling or numbness that go down your arm and into your hand. 

Without treatment, your arm muscles can weaken, and you can lose grip strength or fine motor control.

Complications can develop

Your neck shares space with muscles and nerves that affect your face, jaw, and head. Even an everyday neck strain can lead to a headache and limited movement.

More severe neck injuries result in a host of complications, including:

The sooner you get treatment, the better your chances are of preventing complications.

If you have neck pain, don’t wait to schedule an appointment. Contact us at the Headache & Pain Center by calling or scheduling an appointment online. We have offices in Gray and New Iberia, Louisiana.

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