Neck pain is a very common problem. In fact, two-thirds of the population will have neck pain at some point in life. It can arise from stress, lack of sleep, prolonged postures (such as reading or driving), sports injuries, whiplash injuries, arthritis, referred pain from upper back problems, or even from sinusitis! Rarely, it can be caused from dangerous problems including referred pain during a heart attack, carotid or vertebral artery injuries, or head or neck cancer, but these, as previously stated, are very uncommon. However, since you don’t know why your neck hurts, it’s very important to have your neck pain properly evaluated so the cause can be properly treated.
Barring the dangerous causes of neck pain listed above, treatment methods vary depending on whom you elect to consult. Classically, if you see your primary care physician, pharmaceutical care is usually the approach. Medications can be directed at reducing pain (acetaminophen, or one of many prescription “pain killers”), reducing inflammation and pain (aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, etc.), reducing muscle spasms (like muscle relaxers), or to reduce depression, anxiety, and the like. When a sinus infection affects the two deep sinuses (the ethmoid and sphenoid sinuses, which are located deep in the head), the referred pain is directed to the back of the head and neck. Here, an antibiotic may be needed and/or something specifically directed at allergies when present.
However, the good news is that chiropractic care usually works well, and the need for medication can be avoided since the side effects of medication can sometimes be worse than the benefits.
Recently, the Bone and Joint Decade Task Force on Neck Pain reviewed findings from studies published between 2000 and 2010 regarding neck pain treatment approaches. They concluded that spinal manipulation and mobilization are highly effective for many causes of neck pain, especially when arising from the muscles and joints – the most common cause. Therefore, it would seem logical to consult with a doctor of chiropractic FIRST since these manual therapies are so effective and safe, especially when combined with neck-specific exercise, which studies support using for reducing neck pain and disability. Depending on the patient’s unique case, their chiropractor may use different modalities including electric stimulation, ultrasound, low-level laser therapy, hot and/or cold (which are usually given as a good home-applied remedy), and others.