Neck pain is one of the common presentations to a Chiropractor and one of the most common musculoskeletal complaints overall. Two thirds of the population will get neck pain at some point in their lives. 5% of the population at any given time suffer from it.
How Neck Pain Works:
The neck is made up of:
- Small and complex joints
- Spinal discs with gelatinous inner cores
- Highly sensitive nerves and nerve roots that travel from the neck and
down into the arms
- Tendons and muscles and other soft tissues
These structures are all connected to each other, and thus affect each other. Irritation of one section of the neck often starts a chain reaction of symptoms, altering the normal movement of the neck and causing pain and that can radiate or refer to other parts of the body such as the head, mid back and shoulders.
When the neck is injured, the joints in the spine stiffen up, inflammation causes swelling and discomfort, nerves become irritated and the surrounding muscles go into spasm to try and protect the injured area. Pain from resultant nerve irritation, swelling and muscle spasms can be severe. If neck pain remains untreated, it may become chronic (meaning neck pain occurs frequently
over a long period of time).
The symptoms and severity of neck pain can vary greatly depending on what nerves and structures are affected and how they are being affected. The severity of symptoms can vary greatly from patient to patient.
Common Forms of Neck Pain:
Posture related neck pain, torticollis and whiplash, are the three most common causes of neck pain.
1) Posture related neck pain (aka ‘Biomechanical neck pain’):
Poor posture places extra strain on the discs, joints, ligaments and muscles of the neck. Standing with the shoulders slouched and chin poking forward, working with your head down for long periods of time, slumping while seated and sleeping face-down are common postural problems that affect the neck. As a result, many desk and office workers will suffer this form of neck pain
2) Torticollis (aka ‘Wry Neck’):
Is a common condition where your neck suddenly becomes stiff and painful. Turning your head to the side (generally one side more than the other) and looking up produces a sudden, sharp ‘catching’ pain. One or both sides of the neck may also go into spasm, and pain may be felt from the top of the neck down to the shoulder blade and even out to the top of the shoulder. This is often caused by poor sleeping posture, a sudden flicking or jerking of the head or carrying uneven loads.
Whiplash is a traumatic injury caused by a sudden jerking backwards and forwards movement. The most common cause of this is a rear-end motor vehicle accident. This type of injury can overstretch the neck and upper back region, resulting in a strain or tear to the supporting ligaments, muscles, discs, causing irritation of the local nerves. Whiplash injuries can be very severe and some symptoms of whiplash may occur months after the initial injury.
Why do we get neck pain?:
The most common cause of neck pain ‘recurrent micro trauma’, which means small, repetitive injuries that occur frequently over a long period of time until the ‘last straw’. These small, repetitive injuries are all posture and lifestyle related, caused by what we do at work or home, including:
- Poor posture
- Sitting slouched for too long
- Lifting unevenly weighted objects
- Carrying a hand-bag constantly on one shoulder
- Sleeping with a pillow that is too high, too low or poor quality
- Repetitive manual work (such as factory workers, painters, etc)
Our necks see a lot of abuse, and most people don’t give their neck a second thought until it starts to hurt.
These ‘micro’ injuries take years before symptoms start to show, and an injury process typically starts long before you start to feel pain.
Although the spine is a strong and robust structure, it needs to be maintained and looked after to ensure it is not going to cause you pain and discomfort.
How does Chiropractic help?:
Chiropractic has been shown to be one of the most effective and safest treatments for neck pain.
Through Chiropractic adjustment of the neck and mid back, Chiropractors can correct biomechanical dysfunction of the cervical spine that is causing symptoms. By removing the biomechanical causes, episodes of neck pain are reduced, and symptoms eliminated.
In addition to chiropractic adjustments, deep tissue massage can be used to loosen the tense muscles around the spine. This also reduces stresses placed on the back and improves biomechanics.
Treatment may also include other modalities such as the application of ice packs, home exercises, and general nutrition advice and lifestyle changes to help the sufferer prevent future episodes.
Identifying the symptoms, along with an accurate diagnosis of the underlying cause of the pain, is the first step in obtaining effective pain relief.
At Caulfield Family Chiropractic, we are trained and experienced in the management of neck back pain.