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Pain in the Neck (Cervicalgia)

Cervicalgia is a pain in the neck which does not radiate outwards (or down the arms). Cervicalgia is slightly different to a neck strain, which is usually more short-lived.

Symptoms of Cervicalgia Include:

  • An occasional sharp pain in the neck, usually on movement.
  • More constant aching in the neck.
  • Pain is frequent when rotating the head/neck.
  • A feeling of tightness around the neck and upper back.
  • It may be tender to palpate (feel).
  • Stiffness in the neck.
  • Headaches.

Causes

The neck muscles are constantly under tension to hold the head up. The head itself is actually pretty heavy, weighing in on average at about 10lb (4.5kg). The muscles in your neck must work to hold this heavy sphere on top of a relatively thin post (the neck!). Therefore they are often prone to pain through gradual tightening of the muscles which can also result in tearing from sudden sharp movements.

Of course there are things which can contribute to make the problem worse. The main issue is poor posture, usually where the head position is not held directly over the neck and instead is positioned in a forwards position. This places additional strain on the muscles.

Treatment

What can the athlete do about cervicalgia?

  • Apply ice if a tear in the muscle is suspected.
  • Rest.
  • Wear a special neck collar to help the muscles rest in more severe cases.
  • Ask your Doctor about painkillers or anti-inflammatories.
  • Apply heat for more persistent cases (no sooner than 5 days after initial injury)
  • See a sports injury professional who can advise on rehabilitation.
  • Look at possible causes of injury.

What can a sports injury specialist do?