Neck pain is an injury common to athletes and is not regularly a serious cause for concern, with symptoms disappearing over the course of a few days with correct rest and treatment. Some neck pain can become chronic and this reveals a more severe injury.
Stinging or dull pain in the neck. This may be accompanied by stiffness, and as a result can impede your ability to perform regular tasks and activities. The pain can sometimes run down your back or into a shoulder at the same time.
Neck pain can be an overuse injury, resulting from exercising with fatigued or weakened muscles. Muscles can become weakened through repetitive movements. Unsuitable posture during sports or other activities can also provoke the pain. If you have been involved in an accident or collision involving the neck being thrown violently back, you might have whiplash. More serious potential causes include problems with slipped (herniated) discs, trapped nerves, compression of the spinal column, or a form of arthritis that can develop with age and wear on the neck. All of these conditions can be identified by a doctor.
It is important to ascertain the cause of your neck pain. Generally, irritating pain that is not debilitating will heal in a number of days if it is not linked to an underlying condition. This requires rest from activity so as not to worsen the injury, and self-treatment should include icing the affected area a few times per day and also applying heat for short periods. Responsible use of heat pads or simply a bath or shower are all effective. If heat appears to inflame the area, cease this form of treatment. Careful stretching of the neck in all directions, dependent on this not causing sharp pain, can help to combat rigidity. Pain and anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen and aspirin may be beneficial, but you should first consult a doctor.
If pain and lack of movement persists after a week or so of self-treatment, see a medical professional. Suspected whiplash should always be referred to a doctor. Pain which spreads sharply to the shoulder or along the arm may be indicative of a nerve problem and you should see a doctor, as you should if you suffer from pronounced weakness in a limb or bladder irregularities in conjunction with your neck pain. A doctor might recommend a thorough stretching program, injections of corticosteroids, traction or a neck brace to immobilize the neck, or in very rare cases surgery.
Maintain correct posture during sports and activities, with your head centred and back straight; a professional can advise you on this if you are unsure. Other minor alterations in your training can also reduce the risks of a similar injury, such as stretching and strengthening your neck muscles suitably before exercising, always warming up before activity and warming down afterwards, adding regular breaks to your routine, and increasing the strength of chest and shoulder muscles in order to provide better support for the neck.
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