Neck pain is a common complaint in today’s society where many of us spend far too much time sitting in front of the computer, whether it be for work or for pleasure. Many people find themselves experiencing neck pain that seems to come out of nowhere. Statistically, most people cannot recall the exact incident that caused their pain. Many find that certain activities may aggravate their condition and it may even seem to “come and go”, ultimately becoming more frequent over time.
When trying to determine the cause of your pain there is a few questions you can ask yourself before even seeking help from a provider. When did it start? What seems to make it worse? Does the pain travel or is it a local pain? There are a couple different scenarios that are most common in individuals that I will cover.
If the pain is a local type of pain without radiation below the shoulder it is likely a muscle and joint issue. Many people with this issue may report stiffness in the AM and a tired and achy feeling at the end of the day. Typically, a postural exam shows a forward head carriage and rounded shoulders creating an over-all “slumped” posture. The mechanism of injury is a matter of micro-trauma (sitting, bending, lifting). This will create joint dysfunction over-time. When normal joint movement is lost the muscles will become short and tight further restricting movement. This lack of movement eventually creates an inflammatory response resulting in pain. The discs in your spine that act as shock absorbers rely on movement for nutrition since there is no blood supply. Lack of movement leads to disc desiccation or “drying up” which may aggravate arthritic change or even spinal nerves.
Another scenario which typically has more of a memorable onset is nerve involvement due to disc injury. These patients are often between the ages of 20-40 and are typically active (or getting back into being active.) The same posture discussed above may be present creating that “slumped” appearance. Even a small shift in your head position can increase the amount of force directed through your spine putting you at greater risk of injury. The disc may begin to bulge over-time due to the increased pressure through poor posture or trauma and put pressure on one or more of the nerves exiting the spine. This condition is typically noted as producing burning or numbness that will typically travel below the elbow to the hand. Many patients report that it only affects certain fingers, and they can distinctly define the borders of numbness and/or pain. This may lead to permanent motor or sensory loss.
Left untreated, scenario one may progress to a disc/nerve issue described above. Consult your Chiropractic Physician for a postural analysis and a thorough examination to determine the cause of your pain. By freeing up the joints and muscles and correcting poor posture many people find immediate relief and increases in range of motion. Most importantly, you are taking strides towards better health and preventing future problems. Prevention is key!