Neck Pain: Causes and Treatments
Nov 23, 2020
One of the most common conditions we see in our clinic is neck pain. Sometimes the pain has just started recently from an injury like an automobile accident, or, the pain has been present on a more intermittent basis but now is more common and is becoming more intense. Whatever the presentation, neck pain can be very debilitating and range from very severe to an annoying level of pain. Below, we will try to answer the following questions regarding neck pain:
- What are some potential causes of neck pain?
- What are common symptoms that could be coming from the neck and when should I seek chiropractic or medical attention?
- How can I prevent neck pain?
- What are some common treatments for neck pain?
Causes of neck pain:
The most common causes of neck pain are:
- Strain/sprain injury from trauma such as car accident or other “whiplash” types of injuries. This includes more subtle overuse injuries where the neck is turned one direction frequently or used in such a way that the neck muscles and joints begin to move or hold your head in a dysfunctional manner.
- Poor posture habits, i.e., sitting in a chair or desk improperly for long periods of time
- Sleeping “wrong”. Many of our patient have no neck symptoms when they went to bed, but the next morning there is significant neck pain and loss of motion
- Arthritis in the joints of the neck often caused by “wear and tear”.
- Nerve “pinching” that usually results from a disk problem or a spur in the neck
More uncommon causes of neck pain include:
- Congenital abnormalities
- Diseases like cancer.
Although the above can cause neck pain, they are rare.
Symptoms of neck pain and when to see the Chiropractor:
- Pain in and around the neck with or without a known cause, especially if it lasts more than a week
- pain that shoots into the arms/hands
- numbness and tingling into the arms/hands
- If the neck pain is related to fever, vomiting, trouble swallowing or breathing, or is related to swollen glands it is important that one seeks medical assistance.
Ways to prevent neck pain:
- Awareness of your posture is critical. Whether you are standing, sitting or lying down, there is always a “right” way to do these things that help you to utilize the posture muscles of the neck and spine properly. Posture muscles are built to maintain a contraction for long periods of time holding you in a certain position. The longer we try and hold our body in positions which are not conducive to good posture, these muscles become fatigued and oxygen deprived. The result is neck pain, fatigue, and the development of trigger points in the muscles. These alone can be pain generators.
- Do not sleep on your stomach. It is impossible for the muscles of the spine to relax and become refreshed at night when they are constantly waging a war against gravity all night. Let the bed support the spine at night while lying on your back or your side. Also, if you are on your stomach, the neck muscles become imbalanced during the night because the head is turned in order to breath.
- Lighten your purse or any other bag or load that you carry on your shoulder(s).If this is unavoidable, make sure you frequently change sides so that one set of shoulder/neck muscles don’t carry the load for long periods of time.
- Do not use your shoulder to hold the phone. Get an ear piece, head phones, or use the speaker on the phone.
- If are required to use a computer/monitor for long periods of time, consider utilizing the adjustable height desks. Frequently changing positions from sitting to standing/standing to sitting will help the posture muscles in the neck and shoulder immensely.
Common treatments for neck pain:
- When the cause of the neck symptoms is related to the muscles and joints of the neck, treatment should consist of physical medicine disciplines, i.e. chiropractic, physical therapy, exercise. Musculoskeletal causes of neck pain and dysfunction respond very well to chiropractic manipulative care, exercise, and changing of some posture habits.
- Sometimes, x-rays or an MRI of the neck/spine might be needed in order to see the bones and soft tissues in the neck and to determine the appropriate treatment approach. If a disk herniation is the cause of neck pain it is usually associated with radiating arm pain. Depending upon the severity of the disk problem and the severity of the symptoms, a surgical consult may be in order. In these rare cases we work with the surgeon to determine the best “next steps” for this patient in order to assure the best possible outcome.
We strive to communicate to our patients why they are having pain and what the treatment options are for their condition. We utilize manual adjusting techniques for the spine as well as machine or instrument adjusting depending upon the condition. Our clinic is an Integrated Office, meaning we have chiropractic, physical therapy, and medicine utilizing the services of a nurse practitioner and functional medicine as needed all in the same office. We also utilized other forms of therapy such as trigger point dry needling and also Class IV Laser, both being very helpful adjunctive therapies.
In summary, the vast majority of patients with neck pain who we see in our clinic are helped through conservative treatment approaches. Call us at Arvada Sport and Spine Group if neck pain is something that you are experiencing.