NECK PAIN

Most cases of acute back or neck pain are treatable, that is the cause of the pain is identified and a treatment plan is developed. The patient's pain usually goes away or is reduced as a result. CChronic back or neck pain, on the other hand, often has to be managed. This is because what can cause chronic pain may be difficult to determine. The treatment plan may require multiple and/or combined therapies. The complexity of chronic pain may mean it takes a patient longer to find relief from their symptoms. Pain management specialists have many different therapies from which to create a chronic pain treatment plan.

Two Types of Neck Pain

There are two distinct types of cervical neck pain. The first type often involves a dull pain in the neck that radiates down the shoulders and arms. Patients may also notice weakness in specific muscles in the arms.

A herniated (bulging) disc in the spine pinching a nerve root in the neck often causes this type of neck pain. Discs are found between each vertebra, or bone, in the spinal column. They serve as "shock absorbers" within the spine and have a gel-like center that makes them flexible, allowing the spine to bend and move. However, because the discs are soft they can also bulge and become misshapen. When this occurs, they can place pressure on the spinal cord or irritate one of the nerves leading from the spinal cord out to the arms and upper torso. If the bulge becomes severe, the disc may herniate and push into the spinal canal. The result can be weakness, tingling, clumsiness and numbness in the arm and hands. Bulging discs can be caused by injuries like whiplash, stress on the spine by overuse, or by arthritis/degeneration in the spine.

The second type of neck pain often isn't experienced as 'pain' by patients at all. It usually involves numbness or weakness in the arms or legs, difficulty walking, loss of pain or temperature sensation in the hands and arms, poor balance and stiffness in the neck. In this case, there is pressure directly on the spinal cord. Because this type of "pain" is not felt in the neck itself, it is easily misdiagnosed.

"We usually see patients with neck pain in one of three different scenarios," Dr. Sonntag said. "One, they've been in some sort of accident and have suffered a whiplash-type injury. Two, they have a chronic injury caused by overuse, most likely caused by working at a computer for endless hours. Or they've experienced one of the first two scenarios in the past and now have arthritis or a tissue degeneration problem

Neck Pain and Athletes: Running Injuries

The neck is an area where stress can have a tendency to accumulate. The sight of someone grabbing the back of their neck and squeezing is all too common, and for runners, the likelihood of having neck pain problems is high.

If you stop and think for one moment that the head, which weighs about 10% of the body weight, is like a bowling ball sitting on top of a relatively thin structure, known as your neck. With all of the prior traumas we've had, from slipping on ice to whiplashes in car/bike accidents, it's not hard to believe that many runner's necks have been injured, re-injured and never fully healed, as most of us only treat neck pain that is bad, not conditions until they are corrected. A little pain medication ultimately relieves neck pain to a degree of tolerance, and most of us are content with that.

Well, for those who want a better and more productive program, read on. First of all, the neck has what is known as a lordotic curve. On standing x-ray, there is a very specific curve that is supposed to appear in the neck when looking at a person from the side. Looking head on, the spine is supposed to be straight.

Keeping in mind that the neck is much like the top floor of a building and acts in a compensatory manner to any imbalances or defects in the arches of the feet, curves of the low back, etc., it sometimes is important to look beyond the neck if chronic problems occur.

Be that as it may, in most cases, muscle tightness is the primary problem in neck problems. This tightness cause people to reach levels of total exasperation. The tightness is usually a result of locked joints in the neck which is usually a result of recent or past injuries. The key to success with all neck problems is to restore as much motion to the joints of the neck as possible and then to restore the normal curvature and alignment to the spine as possible. Once these two objectives have been met, then a maintenance program is indicated. This is different for everyone as all of us require different amounts of work to heal.

In an acute injury, ice is always beneficial. If x-rays haven't been taken in the past 2 years, updated standing neck x-rays are imperative. A good sports chiropractor is a must as runners are predisposed more to neck problems because of the continual compression with each stride. This increases the likelihood of joint locking in the neck producing muscle tightness, pinched nerves, etc.

Facts and Tips about Neck Pain

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Avoid tired neck muscles at the end of the day! Do some easy stretches rolling your head from side to side, for example -while sitting at your desk at work.

Warm up before exercising: remember especially to stretch your neck.

Woke up with a crick in your neck? Try to avoid sleeping on your stomach because that can put more pressure on your shoulders and neck.

Check how your computer is set up at home or at the office. You should be able to see the screen without twisting your neck, so make sure it's right in front of you.

Stress can make neck pain feel worse…so relax, take some deep breaths, do whatever works best for you in dealing with stress.

Right after a neck injury, you should use ice on your neck for 20 minutes at a time. After the first 24-48 hours, alternate between heat and ice (20 minutes on each should be good).

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Neck Pain Animation Video

 

Neck Pain Video Transcript.

The spine consists of 33 vertebrae that protect the spinal cord and provide stability to the torso. The first seven vertebrae comprise the cervical spine. Surrounding these vertebrae are muscles, ligaments, blood vessels, and nerves. In addition, intervertebral discs between the vertebrae act as shock absorbers for the spine.

The most common cause of neck pain is due to a muscle strain or other soft tissue sprain of the neck structures. These types of injuries can result from a car accident or from straining the neck, such as from sleeping in the wrong position or from carrying a heavy suitcase.

If you have neck pain that lasts longer than a few days or is associated with numbness or tingling in the arms, you should see a physician for a proper diagnosis.

 

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