Most adults have experienced acute pain in the neck at some point in their lives. However, neck pain in children is not a very common occurrence. But still, children of any age group can suffer from this painful condition. Usually, it occurs when the neck, shoulder muscles or the spine is under excessive stress for some reasons like injuries during exercises or sports activities. In such cases, the pain is temporary and goes after a few days. However, when it is an early sign of any disease, special care has to be taken along with proper diagnosis and treatment.
Causes of Neck Pain in Children
The intensity of the pain in neck can vary from mild to severe depending upon the severity of damage in its bones and muscles. The main factors that can cause damage to children's neck structure are as follows.
A sudden pain in the neck indicates that it has been hurt while doing some activities. Those kids who are very active, are prone to neck injuries during contact sports like soccer or wrestling. It can also happen because of accidents like a bad fall from tree, bike, or stairs; and landing on a hard surface. Such injuries cause sprain or strain in the neck muscles, and in some worse condition, there could be a fracture in the neck bone.
Improper positioning of the neck for a long time while sitting in the class, or sleeping in an incorrect posture will badly strain the neck muscles and lead to neck pain. When kids are involved in activities like sitting at a desk in the classroom, playing video games, typing on a computer keyboard, reading in bed for a long time, etc., they tend to assume a drooping posture. Such a posture puts an extra pressure on the neck muscles and they experience severe pain.
Excessive Weight on Neck
The delicate shoulder muscles of small children are subjected to a lot of stress when they carry heavy bags to the school. As a result, the shoulder and neck muscles become tensed. This kind of neck pain can be prevented if the child uses book bags that have an extra strap which can be fastened at the waist. This will provide adequate support and lessen the pressure from their shoulders.
Symptom of an Underlying Disease
Neck pain due to an underlying disease is accompanied by various other symptoms. The diseases that give neck pain in small children are meningitis and rheumatoid arthritis. In meningitis, the stiffness in neck is so severe that the child finds it difficult to bend the head forward and is unable to even touch his or her chin on the chest. This is a bacterial infection which has symptoms like fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, etc. Rheumatoid arthritis in the neck can be identified with chronic swelling in the joint, fatigue, weakness and fever. This pain gets aggravated at night.
Treatment for Neck Pain in Children
A mild neck pain will go down if the child takes some rest. Application of icepack on the site of injury also helps to relieve the pain. Ask your child to avoid pillows while sleeping until the pain subsides. Rather, roll a towel and wrap it around his or her neck. Foam collar is also available at the pharmacy stores and can be used for this purpose. When the pain is no longer tolerable for the child, over the counter painkillers are administered. Heat compression of the neck with the help of a heating pad has also proved to be helpful. A severe pain in the neck that shows no signs of improvement requires medical intervention. Moreover, if the neck pain is accompanied by other symptoms such as swelling, numbness or fever, then the treatment of the disease should start as soon as possible.
Most of the cases of neck pain in children can be treated successfully and that too without any permanent damage to the kids' health. In case it is a chronic pain and there is no other symptom, you need to identify the habits of the child that are causing strain on the neck. With correct body posture and some neck stretching exercises, one can get rid of this kind of problem.