Neck pain is one of the most common musculoskeletal ailments. The neck, is also called the cervical spine. It runs from the base of the skull, down to the area between the shoulder blades. When neck pain is present, it can be quite limiting in the ability to function. Neck pain can vary in intensity and frequency of symptoms, type of pain experienced and location of pain. Neck pain can significantly impair an individual’s ability to perform everyday activities and work related tasks.
Problems in the cervical spine region can present with various types of symptoms in the head, face, neck, between the shoulders blade, front or back of shoulders, or into the arm(s) or finger(s).
Types of neck pain experienced include (just to name a few): sharp, shooting, stabbing, numb, tingling, dull, achey, gnawing, throbbing, nagging, etc.
Causes of neck pain
Sprain/Strains: Often this is due to daily occupational/functional hazards from the cumulative effect of impaired posture in conjunction with faulty body mechanics with job related tasks such as sitting at a desk all day, and/or activities of daily living, such as leaning over the counter to brush your teeth or doing dishes. This is a very common cause of neck pain.
Degeneration: Osteoarthritis results from the gradual wear and tear that has occurred in the vertebral segments of the neck region. Often, this leads to structural changes such as stenosis. Stenosis is a narrowing of the area where the spinal cord and/or nerves are located, or degenerative disc disease which results in loss of space in between the vertebrae. .
Trauma: Often, this results from a car accident often involving a whiplash type of injury. Also, it could be from a fall, assault, or sports injury. Traumatic neck injuries can lead to an injury to the discs or nerves or the surrounding soft tissues of the neck region.
Nerve Impingement/Compression: This results from herniated discs or other structures pushing on the nerves in the cervical region.
Disease: There are many diseases of the spine that can lead to neck pain. Ankylosing Spondylitis, cancer, Rheumatoid Arthritis, meningitis, and Osteoperosis are a few examples.
Treatment of Neck Pain:
There are many different treatments for neck pain. Injections focus on the reduction of inflammation and/or pain emanating from a specific region. Surgery is very effective in circumstances where more conservative means of treatment have been, or would be, ineffective due to structural problems in the spine.
Lastly, physical therapy can be very effective in treating neck pain. The focus of physical therapy is to reduce inflammation, improve soft tissue and joint mobility, and build strength in the neck and shoulder blade region to improve mechanics and posture of the upper body. The goal of physical therapy is to not only alleviate the current pain, but also educate the patient and provide a home exercise program to prevent future issues.
Prevention of Neck Pain:
Maintaining a balance of flexibility, and strength of the neck and upper body musculature and being mindful of posture when sitting or standing still, and when moving throughout the course of the day, is key to the prevention of neck pain.
For further information regarding neck pain, consult your Physical Therapist at ReThrive.