Mark W. McFarland, DO
This self-quarantine business during the COVID -19 crisis is rough, by any measure. Many of you may be working from home, tending to kids and trying to get that “honey-do” list completed during self-confinement. You may be experiencing neck pain for the first time or maybe your on-and-off neck pain that you’ve had for years has gotten worse. Let’s explore a few reasons for this and steps you can take at home to alleviate painful neck symptoms.
Your neck is an anatomical wonder which allows you to turn and bend your head and carries the weight of your skull and brain. It’s comprised of seven cervical spine bones, called vertebrae, with cushioning discs in between. The cervical spine holds the spinal cord and also has major and minor nerves which control many functions in your body. Connecting your neck bones are ligaments, and tendons connect your bones to the many muscles in the neck. When one or more of these components becomes inflamed, irritated or dysfunctional due to arthritis or injury, pain is often the result.
So, let’s do a quick body check. If you are working at home, are you sitting on the sofa or bed balancing your laptop on your lap, looking down at the screen? This posture is very hard on your neck. Try sitting in a supportive chair (not your Lazy-Boy recliner), like a dining room chair and put your laptop at a height so that the screen is at eye-level. Been staring at your cellphone for hours? The same applies to any mobile device or tablet. Get it up to eye-level or take a break and go for a walk around the block to give your neck a rest.
Have you been getting a ton of stuff done around the house, but find that your neck is killing you? Doing yard work, painting, and cleaning out the gutters can all strain under-conditioned muscles and soft tissues in the neck. Take it easy and listen to your body. If you are sore and painful, give your body a few days rest so that your neck can recover.
Has the Coronavirus caused you any stress? Yes, it’s a rhetorical question. We’re all feeling stress and this often gets carried in our neck and shoulders, causing our muscles to tighten and possibly spasm. Your stress can also cause you to clench your jaws or grind your teeth while sleeping, which often results in neck pain.
Treatments to try at home – You may find that stretches of your neck will help to relieve built up tension and stress. You can find these through a simple internet search. Perform your neck stretches often during the day and do them gently. You may wish to try some Naproxen Sodium, which is a great over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication. Try using a topical cream, like Icy Hot, or applying heat or ice for short periods. A long hot shower can also soothe an achy, sore neck. Get some gentle exercise, like yoga, walking or biking.
If your neck pain persists, you may need a consultation with a spine specialist. I offer both in the office consultations or on-line video consults. I can talk with you about your neck pain and make recommendations for at-home treatment or phone in a prescription for you. If I think you need x-rays or an MRI, you can safely visit our office for these diagnostic studies. I may also prescribe Physical Therapy to help you strengthen and increase the mobility of your neck. Working together, we’ll uncover the cause of your neck pain and find the treatment to get you feeling better.
If you’re interested in making an appointment with Dr. McFarland or another OSC provider, get started online by clicking the “Request Appointment” button below or by calling (757) 596-1900.