Pain in the neck… and the back

The remedy for persistent pain in the neck and back is easier than you thought

old woman with neck painIn most cases, pain in the back and neck are caused due to strains or other injuries to the muscles and ligaments surrounding the spinal column. Similar to the workings of a shock absorber, our spinal column is also made up of individual bones, which are joined together by discs, joints and ligaments.

As a person grows older, there is an increase in the occurrences of pain in the back and neck region. This is typically caused by motion. Constant movement over the years causes the neck [cervical] and the lower parts [lumbar] of the spine to gradually break down.

Some of the most common causes are hectic work schedules, erratic lifestyles, and spending long hours in front of the computer. Lack of attention towards ergonomics like correct sitting posture, eye level placement of the computer screen, use of appropriate chair further worsen the problem.

What are the symptoms?

Early signs of persistent back and neck pain are:

  • Persistent pain. This is a warning sign for urgent medical attention and if treatment is not administered on time, the pain may aggregate affecting normal daily activities.
  • Pain in the back that moves towards the legs. This indicates a nerve compression. Pain extending to hands or legs, numbness of the fingers, toes, weakness in the hands and legs are concrete signs of a persistent issue.
  • A feeling of numbness or a tingling sensation after sitting/standing in a particular posture for long. This is due to the narrowing of the spinal cord, which puts extra pressure on the legs. This generates pain in the back and presence of tight muscles in your lower limbs.

If the pain lasts for over a week and generic medicinal remedies are not giving you complete relief, then it is time to consult your doctor immediately.

How can you treat it?

Back and neck problems do not have a definitive cure. However, these conditions are treatable. Medication is the most common therapy used to treat pain.

Exercises meant to strengthen muscles and joints used in conjunction with medication assist in alleviating pain.

Other modalities like application of hot or cold compresses to the affected area or electric impulses applied to override the muscular spasms also assuage the pain in the affected area.

Can you prevent it?

Listen to your body

Our body responds to any injury by releasing the sensation of pain/uneasiness. If we follow the needs and requirements of our body closely, we will be able to detect and catch most ailments early. And the same is true for back and neck pain too.

Exercise to stay healthy

Any kind of light exercise to stretch and pull bodily muscles, on a regular basis will go a long way in preventing back and neck issues. Further damage can be avoided by doing some warm up exercise before doing any heavy work.

Pay attention to ergonomics

Our lifestyle and work conditions play a major role in most of the ailments we suffer from.

Rest your wrists on the desk

  • Keep your feet flat on the floor and not tucked under your chair. Also, keep your shoulders and back relaxed.
  • Do not lift your shoulders when typing or clicking your mouse. Keep frequently required objects near so that you do not have to twist/turn every time.
  • Do not collapse your neck as you read your screen and avoid using the computer in low-light conditions.
  • Invest in a correct ergonomic chair if you spend long hours in front of the computer.

Take regular breaks

Too much time spent under the air-condition vent also causes stiffness in the back and neck. Balance it with enough sunlight and fresh air. Take a break every two hours of strenuous work.

Do not neglect pain

If symptoms of the pain persist, visit a specialist soon. He will advise you on the type of test/ treatment required and thus prevent severe damage.

Finally, always follow the golden rule: if you take care of your body, your body will take care of you.

Milind Patil
Dr Milind Patil is a consultant orthopaedics surgeon at Wockhardt Hospital and Revival Hospital, Mumbai. He is one of the top 10 joint replacement, trauma and arthroscopic surgeons in the country. He has done his M.Ch from Liverpool and has worked as a consultant in UK for six years.


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