Neck pain is a very common reason for visits to a chiropractic office. Similar to other types of muscular skeletal pain, neck pain can pass on its own within a few days, or it can last for many years. There are also many degrees of varying pain, from a slight annoyance to severe debilitating pain. For many who suffer with more serious neck pain, the frustration often becomes, “why do I have this pain”? The answer to that question depends, because there are several reasons someone may get neck pain. Outlined below are some of the more common things that I see on a day-to-day basis as being the cause of neck pain.
Sprain/strain– This will typically result from some type of trauma or injury. For some people this can occur simply from moving the head too quickly in a particular direction. Another common cause of a sprain/strain would be whiplash. For example, when rear-ended the head is forcefully thrown backwards and then forwards which can damage the supporting muscles, tendons, and ligaments of the neck. Seeking treatment early on can be beneficial because the goal is to make sure the soft tissues heal properly as to prevent chronic pain from arising. It is also important to reestablish proper neck movements, which may minimize excessive wear and tear later on down the road.
Stress– Anyone who has ever had feelings of being overwhelmed, knows that mental stress can easily translate over and start to manifest itself as bodily stress. It is now more commonly accepted than ever before, that the mind and body function together. If stress is allowed to go on too long it can create extremely tight muscles in the base of the skull, along the back of the neck, and also into the shoulders. When muscles become too tight, they don’t get adequate blood to them. Any muscle or tissue that doesn’t have good blood flow will become painful. Some people are familiar with the term trigger points, which are a profound way to say ‘knots in muscles’. The explanation on why trigger points can become so painful has been that there is an inadequate supply of oxygenation (blood) in those areas.
Poor postures– Computers are great, but sitting behind them for 8 hours/day is not. People who work sedentary jobs are actually more at risk than people who are up and moving around most of the day. When the spine is placed in an unnatural position for an extended period of time muscles become overexerted. This will lead to muscular imbalances and may cause the spine to become misaligned as well.
Arthritis– Osteoarthritis is the most common type of arthritis and is basically thought to be the result of wear and tear over the years. It begins with a progressive deterioration of cartilage, which may or may not cause pain. In response to this the body may start to from bone spurs in that area, which can greatly reduce neck motion.
Spinal stenosis– This is when the passageways for the nerves narrow due to degeneration in the spine or reduced spaces in the discs. As a result the nerves can sometimes become compressed and cause pain or numbness in the arm or even fingers.
Some of the more common types of treatments for the above pains are medications, physical therapy, and chiropractic care. Medications are typically used to block pain signals or reduce inflammation. A chiropractic approach would involve using therapies such as electric stimulation or ultrasound to help relieve pain and encourage healing. In addition, stretching and massage techniques are used to work out trigger points and or tight muscles. Finally, spinal manipulation may be applied to restricted joints to further restore alignment and proper motion. For individuals who suffer from chronic neck pain, some type of rehabilitation needs to be done. We focus on teaching patients how to strengthen the appropriate neck muscles that protect the spine, which may help prevent future injuries. Similar to working core stability for low back pain, implementing neck stability exercises can increase the chances of a successful recovery. If you have any questions regarding any of our techniques, please feel free to contact our office in Kirkwood, MO at 314-822-5300.