Neck pain is a common problem with many possible causes. Activities and events that affect the cervical spine (neck) poor posture, repetitive movements, or not enough movement (like staying at your computer too long). Accidents and falls can result in simple neck pains, or a more complicated set of symptoms called whiplash. Muscle strains affecting the neck can come from simple things like reading in bed or grinding your teeth.
What can I expect with neck pain?
As the name suggests, many people experience pain in the neck as their biggest complaint. It can show up anywhere from the bottom of the hair line to the top of the shoulder blades. Some people may experience discomfort in their upper back, shoulders or arms. It may limit how much you can move your head and neck. Some people experience a special kind of headache called cervicogenic. People with cervicogenic headaches notice that pushing on a spot in their neck will increase discomfort in one or more regions of their head and/or face.
If you experience neck pain for more than just a few days, consult your chiropractor for an assessment. A careful evaluation from your healthcare provider will help determine if you suffer from mechanical neck pain. Using as many descriptions as possible about your neck pain symptoms will help in the management of your case.
In rare cases, neck pain can be a sign of something serious. Seek immediate medical attention if your neck pain is accompanied by severe headache, shooting pain in your arm, numbness or loss of strength in your arms or hands, trouble speaking, swallowing or walking, double vision or loss of balance.
What Causes Neck Pain?
The neck is a complicated structure of bones, joints, ligaments and muscles. Pain could be damage from overdoing it, strain from bad form or posture, or weakness from deconditioning or a sedentary lifestyle. You can sprain ligaments, strain muscles, rupture disks, and irritate joints, all of which can lead to neck pain. Guesswork won’t work, and neither will one strategy for every problem.
Work is the pain in my neck.
Even if you are not sore, you may be overworking your neck and headed to injury. No matter how you spend your day, these are commonly used strategies to try when staying back-healthy is your goal:
- Be posture conscious. Sitting, standing or even laying down – aim to keep the centre of your ear over the centre of your shoulder and hip.
- Take frequent ‘mini’ breaks to stretch or change your position.
- Set up your workstation or the work you do at home ergonomically. That means you adapt the work to your body position instead of adapting your body position to the work.
- Keep fit. A little bit of work on the appropriate back supporting muscles can make a big difference.
How Chiropractic can help
Patients suited for care will receive an individualized plan of management. Depending on the findings of the history and patient examination, treatment options may include:
- Patient education and reassurance
- Chiropractic spinal manipulation (also called adjustments)
- Soft tissue therapy (e.g. muscles)
- Rehabilitation and exercises
- Posture, ergonomic and lifestyle changes
- Referral and/or co-management
Chiropractic Care for Neck Problems
If you experience pain that lasts more than a few days, consult a chiropractor for an assessment.
One of the most recent reviews of scientific literature found evidence that patients with chronic neck pain enrolled in clinical trials reported significant improvement following chiropractic spinal manipulation.
As part of the literature review, published in the March/April 2007 issue of the Journal of
Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, the researchers reviewed nine previously published trials and found “high-quality evidence” that patients with chronic neck pain showed significant pain-level improvements following spinal manipulation. No trial group was reported as having remained unchanged, and all groups showed positive changes up to 12 weeks post-treatment.
What can I do?
The most efficient therapy for neck pain is to prevent it in the first place. Lifestyle factors can play a big role in neck pain. That’s good news because lifestyle factors are considered modifiable.
If we could recommend just one strategy to reduce ordinary aches and pains it would be to improve posture. Here are some more tips:
- Use an appropriate pillow when going to bed. Too thin won’t offer enough contoured support. Too many pillows will wrench your neck up.
- Falling asleep on the sofa does not offer enough support and the sofa-arm can wrench your neck
- Smoking can be associated with low back pain, or can make your episode of back pain worse. As if you needed another good reason to quit.
- Overall fitness can help you recover from back pain episodes. If you have missed work from low back pain disability, overall fitness can help your return.
The modern digital age has brought us many conveniences; powerful notebook computers house our entire careers, tablets and smartphones for social media and entertainment. But not all is at ease in a digital world. Being huddled over devices for long periods of time can lead to headache, neck strain, pain in the shoulders, or arm and hand complaints. These conditions even have their own name – Text Neck! (By the way, you can also experience Text Neck if you read in bed without sitting upright).
The three natural curves of the spine, plus the discs, help absorb the workload of everyday life. Hold your smartphone up at eye level, so that you are not bending your neck to look down at the device.
Take frequent ‘mini’ breaks to stretch or change your position.
Relax. Let it go.
Stress and pain are often closely linked. Each one can impact the other, creating a vicious cycle that sets the stage for chronic pain and chronic stress. Relaxation techniques such as meditation, Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT), deep breathing, and yoga can teach your body to relax and let it go.