Understanding Neck Pain

Watch the video below to learn more.

Neck Pain Anatomy

Your cervical spine, or neck, is built from seven bones stacked on top of each other along with a shock-absorbing disc between each level.

Your neck is actually quite flexible and it relies on muscles and ligaments for support. "Sprains" and "strains" in your neck are the result of these tissues being stretched in a way that is too hard or too far, much like a rope that frays when it is stretched beyond its normal capacity. This often results in pain with certain movements like looking over your shoulder or moving your neck at end range. 

The discs in the neck are also a common source of neck pain. If a disc become compromised, often from poor posture or a more tramatic event like incorrectly lifting weight overhead, it can lead to pain that may refer from the neck into upper trapezius or shoulder blade area. The subsequent soft tissues often try to protect the area by becoming tight, tender, and developing trigger points that refer pain or create headaches. If the injury progresses, nerve pain can be felt into the arm or hand.

Stenosis is a common degenerative condition of the cervical spine and can create a pinched nerve feeling or even radiating pain into the shoulder or upper extrimity. Stenosis is more often a bony change in anatomy and can be quite frustrating and difficult to fully resolve. 

What Are The Common Causes Of Neck Pain?

The two most common causes of neck pain are from poor posture, repetitive strain, and sports injuries.

In other cases, less traumatic activities such as reaching, pushing, pulling, moving heavy objects and falls can also trigger these problems. For most people who suffer from neck pain, the pain is not the result of any single event but rather from repeated or sustained overloading.

Tendons and ligaments for the most part are able to handle these small isolated stressors quite well, but repetitive challenges lead to injury in much the same way that constantly bending a piece of copper wire will cause it to break. Some common types of these less acute types of cervical injuries include bad posture, poor workstations, repetitive movements, prolonged overhead activity, sedentary lifestyles, improper sleep positions, poor breathing strategies and obesity. 

What Are The Symptoms Of Neck Pain?

Symptoms from neck pain can begin very suddenly, but in most cases they will develop gradually.

Complaints about neck injuries often include dull neck pain that becomes sharper when you move your head. Rest may also relieve your symptoms but can often lead to stiffness. The pain is primarily found in the back of your neck but is also known to spread to your shoulders or between your shoulder blades.

Tension headaches are also known to commonly accompany neck injuries. If you start to experience more severe symptoms contact your doctor immediately, some of these conditions to be aware of include severe or "different" headaches, loss of consciousness, confusion or "fogginess", difficulty concentrating, dizziness, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, change in vision, nausea or vomiting, numbness or tingling in your arms or face, weakness or clumsiness in your arms and hands, decreased bowel or bladder control, or fever.

Recovering From Neck Pain

The problem with neck injuries is that they cause your normal healthy elastic tissue to be replaced with less elastic "scar tissue".

This process can lead to ongoing pain and even arthritis in some cases. Seeking early and appropriate treatment for your injuries, like the type we provide, is critical. Depending upon the severity of your injury, you may need to limit your activity, but our goal is to correct the dysfunction and get you back to a pain free lifestyle as quickly as possible. 

If possible you should do your best to avoid heavy lifting and take frequent breaks from prolonged activity, particularly overhead activity, until the injury has been addressed by a professional. Following acute injuries, you can try to add ice for 10-15 minutes at a time. Heat may be helpful in some situations of chronic pain. Be sure to ask your doctor for specific ice/heat recommendations. Some patients report partial relief from sports-creams, massage, or general stretching. 

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