It may be difficult to deal with someone you think to be a pain in the neck, but a real ache in the neck can be worse. Chronic neck pain can make it challenging or impossible to work, rest, or just enjoy life.

Neck discomfort can have a variety of causes. Some are brought on by routine activities like improperly supporting the neck when sitting or standing, using a computer or phone too much, or engaging in certain physical activities.

More unusual causes of neck pain include disc herniation, arthritis, and vehicle accidents, which all cause whiplash and cause symptoms to arise a day or two later. Arthritis causes discomfort anytime you move your neck but gets better when you lie down.

If a herniated disc hits a nerve, difficulties may arise because the soft middle of the disc pulls through the stronger outer ring of the disc. These issues can show themselves in a variety of ways, such as arm weakness, numbness, tingling, and lack of dexterity (such as making it difficult to grip your fork while eating).

Large herniations can frequently press against the spinal cord, which can lead to loss of bladder and/or bowel control as well as balance problems. (If you or a loved one ever have issues this serious, you should seek immediate evaluation and treatment at the nearest emergency room.)

Most people regularly have neck pain. Usually, it disappears on its own. A certified orthopaedic surgeon, who can assess your neck discomfort and make an accurate diagnosis, should be consulted if your neck pain lasts for more than four or five days without improving. Your doctor may also prescribe an MRI or an X-ray to gain a clear view of your neck’s vertebrae and determine the cause of your neck pain.

The cause and severity of neck discomfort determine how it should be treated. Anti-inflammatory drugs, rest, and—in certain cases—physical therapy are how most individuals recover. Once the only choice, anti-inflammatories taken orally are now also available in a topical form that can be applied to the neck.

Your doctor could advise switching to injections if this more cautious course of treatment is ineffective. These come in a variety of forms, including injections into the epidural space, facet joints, and trigger points. Each of these remedies focuses on a particular neck pain source.

Consider surgical treatment if all other non-surgical alternatives have failed and neck pain has persisted for three to six months or longer. Patients frequently experience apprehension while discussing this subject because of the terrifying tales they have heard from friends, relatives, or coworkers. While it is true that spine surgery used to occasionally result in a protracted and difficult recovery period with only marginal long-term relief, modern technology has significantly improved the surgical procedure.

For instance, minimally invasive procedures are now available for some spine surgeries, requiring only a few small incisions that are simple to close. Because of this, most patients are able to return home from surgery within 24 hours and often have a great deal less discomfort than with traditional spine surgery.