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Neck Pain: Top Causes and Six Tips for Relief

Julie Widmer -- Seven out of 10 people will suffer from neck pain at some point during their lives, but the causes are likely to be much different. In fact, neck pain varies significantly from person to person and may not even originate in your neck at all.

Harvard Medical School recently shared some of the most common causes of neck pain, some of which are likely to surprise you:

Muscle pain: Physical and emotional stress can lead to sore neck and shoulder muscles. This can progress into painful "knots" that are sometimes called trigger points.

Muscle spasm: Emotional stress, injury, disk and nerve problems can cause a quick, powerful tightening of your neck muscles, called a spasm. Muscle spasms can also occur with no known cause.

Headache: Muscle tension or spasm in your neck can lead to neck-related headache. Such headaches are typically dull and felt in the back of your head and upper neck; if you move your neck, it will typically make your headache worse.

Facet joint pain: Your facet joints are vertebrae in your neck that can cause sharp pain when you lean your head to the side. The pain may radiate to your shoulder and back.

Nerve pain: A pinched or irritated nerve in your spine can lead to sharp pain in your neck that may also shoot down your arms or to your hands. You may also feel 'pins and needles' with nerve pain.

Referred pain: This is pain in your neck that is triggered by a problem elsewhere in your body. For instance, if your neck pain gets worse with exertion, you may have a heart problem.

Bone pain: The cervical vertebrae in your neck can also cause pain, but this is far less common than soft-tissue pain. If you have bone-related pain in your neck, it could be a sign of a more serious health problem.

Relief: What to Do to Ease Your Neck Pain Naturally

Stress, poor posture, declines in muscle strength, lack of sleep and diseases such as arthritis and degenerative disk disease can all lead to neck pain. Typically the pain comes on gradually (rather than suddenly, as would occur with an injury), giving you time to potentially intervene before the pain gets severe.

Following are six tips for easing neck pain naturally. Keep in mind that if your pain is severe, radiates to other areas of your body or occurs with weakness or numbness, you should see a health care provider to rule out something more serious.

-- Avoid staying in one position for long periods: Moving around often can help you avoid poor posture and a stiff neck.

-- Make ergonomic adjustments: Changing the height and position of your office chair, computer and desk can prevent neck pain. Here are 7 ergonomic tips to prevent pain.

-- Evaluate your eyeglass prescription: An out-of-date prescription may cause you to lean your head back to improve your vision, causing strain on your neck.

-- Stick with one pillow: Too many pillows at night can interfere with your neck's natural range of motion, leading to pain.

-- Know your limits: Avoid lifting heavy objects or performing other movements that could strain your neck and back.

-- Get a good night's sleep: Your risk of musculoskeletal pain increases with inadequate sleep.

Source: Harvard Health Publications

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┬ę 2014 Julie Widmer

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