Neck pain is a very common complaint. Your neck (or cervical spine) is comprised of 7 vertebrae. In a well-aligned neck these vertebrae form a C shaped curve which act as a spring, allowing your spine to absorb shock and support your head. Your neck is designed to be flexible and to allow a wide range of motion as you look up, down and to either side. The down side to this flexibility is that it can also be a vulnerable part of your spine when exposed to sudden trauma or sustained postural strain.
Causes of Neck Pain
Each spinal joint, or motion segment, is composed of a pair of vertebrae which has three joints: one intervertebral disc sandwiched between the vertebrae and 2 facet joints on either side. The discs absorb shock and allow movement between the vertebrae and the facets allow a ‘guiding and gliding’ motion.
The outer fibers of the disc and the facet joints are richly innervated. And this means that they can generate pain if injured or irritated.
When a facet joint pinches or locks, the surrounding muscles spasm in a protective reflex. A sudden locking of the joint can result in a sharp, catching pain – followed by restricted movement and increasing pain. The pain can be very severe and result in ‘wry neck’ – or acute torticollis. This type of neck pain is one of the common conditions we treat at Burswood Health.
Neck muscles can be strained by poor posture and prolonged sitting – like sitting for hours at a keyboard or watching television. Poor postural habits need to be corrected and exercises which improve upright posture play an important part in relieving pain and avoiding future problems.
This brings us to osteoarthritis – which can be viewed as a normal part of the ageing process. Our discs and ligaments become less elastic as we get older. Joint cartilages wear over time and the body attempts to repair any cumulative damage on a daily basis. The stress and strain of daily living, injury (like whiplash) and poor posture all add to the burden of wear and tear and eventually the pain of osteoarthritis sets in.
Treatment of Neck Pain
The pain and stiffness of osteoarthritis is something that can be treated and managed quite effectively in most cases. Gentle spinal adjustments, laser therapy, acupuncture and soft tissue therapy can be very effective. Nutritional supplements (like curcumin, fish oil and glucosamine) play an important part. And exercise is well recognized as being a front-line defense in the management of osteoarthritis anywhere in the body. Our aim is to keep you moving. Motion is lotion for the joints. And simple strategies help minimize the ‘wear and tear’ and maximize your body’s ability to ‘repair’ and slow down the process of osteoarthritis.
Another cause of neck pain is a whiplash injury – which is commonly seen in motor vehicle accidents but can also occur with falls and sporting injuries. Whiplash occurs when the body is suddenly jarred and the head and neck ‘whip’ from side to side or back and forth. The impact is sudden and the neck muscles don’t have time to contract and protect the neck. Such force can damage the muscles, tendons, ligaments and discs resulting in soft tissue swelling, neck pain and often headaches. The pain can be severe and disabling.
Recovery from a whiplash requires specific chiropractic and OT care. The key is to manage the pain, promote optimal healing and to minimize the possibility of chronic pain and early degenerative change resulting from the trauma.
What can be done?
Your chiropractor will perform a thorough orthopaedic and neurological examination of your spine. We will ascertain which tissues are causing your pain and assess joint function, muscle strength and postural alignment. Our aim is to get a definitive diagnosis which allows us to apply the best therapy suited to each individual.
Our treatment program is wide-ranging and can include gentle spinal adjustments, manipulation, soft tissue therapy, laser and acupuncture. The active care part of your program is essential and involves teaching you what to do and what not to do – to avoid injury and to improve spinal function and balance.
Other Pain You Might Feel
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Exercises to strengthen your spine, improve balance and increase aerobic fitness are a very important part of treating and eliminating neck and back pain. Our multidisciplinary team of chiropractors and occupational therapists will help you with postural training, breathing techniques, exercise – or simple things like choosing the right pillow.
Listen to your body!
If you experience neck pain, your body is telling you that something is wrong. Call or contact us today to book an appointment and see how we can help you.