Your neck pain has returned with its usual dull ache and stiffness — and your natural inclination is to spend a few days resting your neck. While this is a common instinct among the estimated 10 percent of adults experiencing neck pain at any given time, it's often not the best plan. As long as you're not dealing with a serious problem, staying active and improving fitness and function of neck muscles are two of the most effective forms of therapy for neck pain.
Neck pain can be mild to severe and can have a wide variety of causes. Most often neck pain involves sharp or dull pain, or neck stiffness. Although the pain and stiffness can be enough to interfere with daily tasks, it's usually not related to a serious problem. Occasionally, neck pain warrants prompt medical care. This includes pain related to a neck injury, or pain, numbness or tingling that radiates to the shoulder or arm or coincides with arm or leg weakness, walking difficulty, or bladder or bowel dysfunction. Pain that worsens at night, is associated with fever or weight loss, or comes on before or with a headache also may signal a condition that needs prompt evaluation.
Muscle tension and strain is one of the most common causes of neck pain, and it typically occurs at the back of the neck and upper back. A common cause is poor posture combined with too many hours hunched over while doing tasks such as driving, computer work, handicrafts or a project at a workbench. Other contributing causes can include tension, stress or poor sleep. Even seemingly minor things such as sleeping in an awkward position, holding a telephone against your head and shoulder, or clenching your jaw can be contributing causes.
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