In modern world, there is hardly a person who has never experienced some sort of neck and back pain. Desk jobs that require hours of sitting and typing on the computer are often seen as the main cause for neck stiffness and pain.
Poor posture is usually blamed for neck pain, but there could be other causes, as well. Neck pain could be caused by degenerative changes in the cervical spine, which occur in all human population. Pain in the upper cervical spine may be experienced in one or both sides, it my spread to one or both shoulders, across the shoulder blades to frontal chest. Stiffness and limited neck movement often accompany the pain.
The condition of painful neck is called painful cervical spine syndrome, syndroma cervicale. If it spreads up to one side of the head, it could come with visual disturbances, unpleasant noise in the ears, tinnitus, balance disorders, dizziness, nausea and vomiting. This case is called syndroma cervicocephale, because it includes both one side of the neck and head.
The pain could also spread to one or both arms, including symptoms such as numb fingers and arms, reduced or increased skin sensitivity and loss of strength is hand or both hands. This case is called cervicobrachiale syndrome. All three syndromes may occur in both elderly and young individuals.
General neck pain causes
There are numerous triggers that cause left side neck pain. It is important to know that neck pain in general may be associated with the damage of some distant organ. Diseases connected to pancreas, gallbladder, heart and coronary blood vessels, lings and head may all include pain in one or both sides of neck as a symptom. Nerve diseases and damages could cause neck pain. Meningitis, neuritis, radiculopathy, myelopathy and tumors could be the possible reasons of neck pain. Different types of musculoskeletal system degeneration are also commonly responsible for the pain.
Degenerative changes of the cervical spine are by far the most common cause of neck pain, one side of neck or the whole cervical spine. A mixture of different factors usually causes degenerative changes. Hereditary predispositions plus contemporary way of life are literary the recipe for neck pain, as well as for the painful lower and upper back. People who are overweight are particularly prone to all sorts of painful spinal conditions. Poor posture, lack of proper activities and sedentary life, accompanied with extra pounds are a disaster for a person’s neck and spine in general.
Daily micro-traumas are also a good explanation of neck pain. When we sit for hours working at the computer, drive a car or watch television, we often force our head to keep completely unnatural and bad position. Unadjusted desk height, for example, contributes to already increased stress we put to our neck in our everyday life. There are various bad habits most people take for granted and never associate it with neck pain. Many people get surprised when they get aware of how their sleeping position affects their spine and neck. Sleeping on stomach is proved the worst possible position for our spine, especially if our pillow is too high or too low.
Causes of pain in left side of neck
To determine what causes you pain in left side of your neck, it is essential to accurately describe the pain. The diagnosis could be determined only after a well-taken history of pain. X rays, CT scan and NMR are sometimes recommended, but are rarely necessary. The most important are information obtained from patients themselves.
The doctor should know when, how and where has the pain occurred, how it feels, does it spreads to head, arms and such, was there any sort of trauma (a sudden jolt, injury, fall), whether the pain has started suddenly or gradually, which factors reduce or increase the pain, what is its intensity, were there other symptoms and when did they occur and so on.
It is also important to provide the doctor with information about your daily routine, your workplace, hobbies and all activities that may be associated with neck stress and cause pain and discomfort.
There is variety of causes responsible for left sided neck pain. They could be divided into four major groups: pain caused by muscle tension and posture, pain caused by neck injuries, pain caused by degenerative disorders and pain caused by medical conditions.
- Pain caused by muscle tension and poor posture
Muscle tension followed by additional neck stress is one of the most common causes of neck pain in general. If you sleep in an incorrect position, you overuse your neck muscles without knowing it. It is very likely that at the some point your neck or one side of it would become stiff, painful and even numb. Poor posture is also a sort of stress for your neck muscles. If you frequently keep your head bent in front, you damage your overall neck support system and cause it to weaken. The condition is often accompanied with pain and discomfort.
- Pain caused by injuries
There are far more types of injuries than we usually think. One of the most common causes of pain in left side of neck and neck in general are whiplash injuries. The sudden moves we take for granted, such as quick acceleration of the motor vehicle speed or the opposite could hurt the spine and neck. The pain could be severe and spread to arms and shoulders, accompanied with fatigue, dizziness, back pain and other complications.
Impact on the left side of neck could affect the nerves in the area, causing the stinging, pinching and burning sensation in the area. It usually comes from sports injuries and could last for hours and days, being temporary, in most cases. Some spinal degenerative changes may cause another nerve problem. It could get pinched and inflamed and widen to the area of left shoulder and arm. Heavy weight lifting or another trauma could also cause the condition called cervical herniated disc, which means the cushioning between spinal parts gets damaged. The symptoms may include tingling, numbness and pain in the left side of neck.
- Pain caused by degenerative disorders
Conditions such as cervical osteoarthritis speed up the natural process of degeneration of neck bones and joints. In order to fight the deterioration, the spine would grow bone spurs. They would limit the neck movements, cause unpleasant sensation and discomfort in the neck area. Another condition, known as spinal stenosis, could also explain pain in lest side of neck. It causes the compression of neural passages on the left side of neck, which is usually accompanied with numbness flowing down the arm.
- Pain caused by medical conditions
Different medical conditions could also be responsible for pain in left side of neck. One of the possible causes is fibromyalgia, the condition that affects all body tissues to weaken and get tender. It could affect the left side of neck and back and cause pain. A condition called diffuse idiopathic skeletal hyperostosis is a syndrome characterized by abnormal calcification in the spine area. When it affects neck area, it causes hardening and stiffness of tissues, limits the neck mobility, cause swelling and pain. Many other medical conditions could possibly explain left sided neck pain. They are unfortunately quite rare. Those conditions include cancer, meningitis, spinal cord tumor and other severe health issues.
Treatment and prevention
Treatment options depend on the primary cause of pain, of course. It also differs in acute and chronic phase of the pain. In acute phases of pain, the aim of treatment is to reduce pain and ease muscle spasms, breaking the vicious circle of spasms and painful sensations. This is usually achieved with inflammatory and pain medications, as well as with rest, avoiding critical moves and additional neck stress. It is necessary to be patient and don’t put any pressure on the spine and neck. Sometimes cryomassage is advised, but only if the doctor say so.
In chronic phase, when the intensity of pain is reduced and the neck and spine become more mobile, the therapy aims to recovery. Medications could be also applied during the phase, massage, physical therapy, electrotherapy and well-planned sets of exercise and stretching are commonly included- Physical therapy involves warm compresses, therapeutic ultrasound and physical therapy. Medical gymnastic conducted and supervised by an expert helps in recovering and maintaining the functions of cervical spine.
Pain in left side of neck and neck pain in general could be prevented by making changes in your daily routine. Adjust your desk height to a level that doesn’t force you to bent your head and keep it in such a position. Sleep on your back, rather than on one side or stomach. Search for an expert’s advice over exercises to strengthen your neck muscles, but don’t put too much stress on your neck. Avoid heavy weight lifting, lose weight, and manage your sleep and diet.