Re: nagging dull neck pain
I have at least one bulging disc and have similar issues. It seemed to get much worse in a short period of time where the dull neck pain would gradually go upwards into my head as the day went on and would end in a migraine and me laying in bed every evening. Luckily for me, I was able to make it through the workday, but I was wasting my evenings away.
Also luckily for me, I found a specific doctor that deals with exactly these kinds of things. Basically, he specializes in neck problems that result in headaches and many other symptoms that I had and thought were just allergies, TMJ disorder, and from being tired. This doctor is a physical therapist and had me to different neck exercises and evaluation and diagnosed me with the bulging disc. I didn't even need to do the MRI, but I am sure he would have suggested it if I am not already improving from his treatment (after only a week). I'll be seeing him twice a week for 6 weeks and then just need to come in for follow-up appointments every now and then. I just thought my neck was sore from popping it or working out and didn't realize it was inflamed and was causing other symptoms. My sinus pressure has greatly decreased, so I was amazed! My sinus pressure makes me feel very dizzy and disoriented, so I was very happy that it's going away.
Although I can't tell anyone what neck exercises will work for them (mine are called "chin tucks" I believe, and of course you want to check with a doctor first to avoid doing any damage from the wrong exercises), but immediately, the doctor told me to stop sleeping on my stomach. Some might be fine with it, but with my head turned so much, it wasn't good for me. In fact, if I lay on my stomach, the sinus pressure starts to come back and I notice myself feeling "off" right away, so I can see how it was bothering me so much over the long run. I also used to wake up with aches when I would sleep on my stomach. I was also told to avoid looking down. At work, my computer is raised up and I use a document holder. I have a soft cervical collar to wear at home. Lastly, I am to lay down for 10 minutes out of every hour in the evenings, and at any time during the day if possible (I lay reclined in my car during my lunch break since there is nowhere to lay down inside the office).
All of this takes time to start feeling a huge improvement, but since I can already feel some improvements, it seems to be promising. My neck also "crackles" quite a bit, even while sitting perfectly still. It does it every few seconds.
As I mentioned, my symptoms were spot-on for this specialist that he didn't even go for the MRI. He told me that he recommends getting them when the patient isn't responding to treatment or when they are not sure what's going on. He has treated many, many patients with cervical spine issues, so I am sure if it was something unusual, I would have gotten the MRI. Instead, I am investing that insurance deductible that would go to it into my physical therapy classes. This physical therapist just works with the cervical spine only. I wonder if there are any near you that would be good and similar! Some people have recommended chiropractors to me, and I can see how in a way they are similar, but the risks involved made me nervous since adjusting the neck incorrectly can result in a stroke. A chiropractor might be able to help faster, but I was okay with the very gentle treatment of the physical therapist for 6 weeks and the visits are never at all uncomfortable.
Good luck to you and hope you are able to find relief! I was surprised to see how many people out there have cervical spine issues... seems to be quite common! My head symptoms were by far the worst when compared to my neck aches, but I guess many of them stem from my neck!