The neck and shoulders of the body have muscles and bones, which serve as protection to arteries, veins, nerves, and other supporting structures. Anatomically, the neck has the cervical spine, which also cradles the spinal cord, in addition to providing support to the head. The neck also has two small bones, which permit high degree of mobility and range of motion.
With their anatomy, the neck and the spine are flexible that they are subject to injury, among other bones and joints of the body.
According to Spine-Health, one of the causes of back neck pain is an awkward body position, which happens when the body is hunched over a steering wheel, or bent forward to view a computer monitor, or holding a phone in the crook of the neck. Also, an improper sleeping position can also put strain to the neck. Using a too high or too firm pillow is a contributing factor to having neck pain. Carrying a heavy object, such as a bad or a suitcase on one side of the body can also hurt the neck.
Injury to the soft tissues, which involve the muscles, tendons, and ligaments also cause neck pain, as per Medicine Net. Such injury may be secondary to whiplash or broken collarbone from a car accident or fall from a bicycle. In addition, degenerative arthritis of the cervical spine compresses the nerves in the neck and the shoulder areas, causing pain. Other causes of neck pain are bursitis or the inflammation of the sac that cushions the joints and the muscles, and tendonitis or the inflammation of the tendons, the structures that connect muscles to the bones. The neck and shoulder may also become painful due to injuries involving the rotator cuff, a group of tendons that provide support to the shoulder.
Minor neck strains do heal in a relatively short period of time, for about one to two days, according to Spine-Health. However, there are a number of home remedies that can be applied to alleviate the pain and stiffness in the neck area.
Immobilization is one of the key interventions to neck injury and pain. According to Medicine Net, the injured area should be used as little as possible for the first two to three days. This prevents further harm and injury to the affected area. Then, following rest is exercise on the injured area, so as to promote blood circulation and improve strength, in addition to a speedy recovery.
According to Spine-Health, the application of ice or cold packs can be done to reduce pain. The coldness of ice decrease inflammation in the neck area, allowing it to heal. The publication noted that the ice or cold pack should be applied in the area in 20-minute intervals during the first 24 hours. However, ice should not be directly applied to the skin to prevent damaging the skin. Wrapping the ice with a towel is recommended.
Aside from rest, elevation of the injured area is another remedy to neck pain. The body should be elevated so as the head is higher than the rest of the body. According to Medicine Net, elevation of the affected area above heart level reduces pain and inflammation.
In addition to cold compress, heat can also be applied on the affected area. Scientifically speaking, heat improves blood circulation, which allows more efficient delivery of nutrient and oxygen-rich blood to the neck, which triggers a healing response. While some people opt to use moist heat like a hot bath or shower, some prefer applying low level heat from heat wraps.
After the non-pharmacological interventions comes the pain control through medications. Analgesics, such as Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), can help in controlling pain and inflammation.
While the above remedies help decrease the pain and inflammation in the neck and shoulder areas, one should consider medical consult if pain and swelling persist. For the severely injured, hospitalization may be required for adequate assessment, testing, and evaluation.