Neck Pain Causes

Neck Pain Causes

Causes of neck pain and the things you need to know to relieve it

Common causes of neck pain include trauma from accidents, postural stresses, and working in awkward positions or cramped spaces. Unfortunately, we are limited in the things we can do to protect against unforseen accidents, hence this article focuses on what we can do to limit neck pain elsewhere in our daily lives.

When moving about, we assume a fairly upright posture with the head retracted and held directly over the vertebral column receiving maximum support. In relaxed sitting, the head and neck slowly protrude because the supporting muscles gradually tire and no longer support good posture. The pain we feel in our neck is caused by the overstretching of ligaments for prolonged periods in this protruded position. Other instances include lying or sleeping with the head in strained positions.

The cervical lordosis is the curve at the back of your neck when viewed from the side. Office workers usually sit in a slouched position, hanging their head forward of the shoulders and protruding the chin thus losing the lordosis completely. Pain from working in this position is relieved simply by correcting the posture, however, habitual poor posture will result in changes to the structure and shape of the joints of the neck, and lead to more complicated injury.

Prolonged sitting situations

The position of the low back strongly influences the posture of the neck, do not allow it to slouch or become rounded whilst sitting. Correct sitting posture is vital. You should also interrupt protruded head posture with regular intervals and postural relief exercises.

The correct head posture whilst sitting requires you to keep the head retracted. The extreme of the retracted head position is that which gives the appearance of a double chin, and is actually a position of strain. Sitting comfortably and correctly requires you to hold your head just short of the extreme retracted posture. To find this position, first retract the head as far as possible and then release the last 10% of this movement. This is the correct head posture and can be maintained for any length of time.

If you find yourself sitting for large portions of the day, your aim should be to restore correct posture and then maintain it. Pain will start to decrease as you improve your head posture, and you will have no pain once you can maintain the correct posture. Pain will reoccur in the first few weeks if you allow your head to protrude, but eventually you will be pain free even when you momentarily fall out of good posture.

During this period of posture re-training, expect to feel some new pains, possibly in different places. These pains are the result of performing the postural relief exercises and holding new head positions. They should wear off in a few days provided postural correction is continued on a regular basis.

Lying and resting

Postural stress in the lying position is another cause of neck pain. If you wake up in the morning with pain and stiffness in the neck that was not there the night before, the problem is possibly due to the sleeping surface or position in which you sleep.

Your pillow functions to support your head and neck. You might need to change the material from which it is made, the thickness, or both. The pillow should fill the curve behind your neck without tilting the head or lifting it up. Ideally, the head should be able to rest on a “dish-shaped hollow” so you need to be able to adjust the contents of the pillow easily.

Beware of pillows made of moulded foam. Many of these pillows do not allow their contents to be adjusted and always adopt the shape of their original mould. These pillows do not allow the head to rest into a “dish-shaped hollow” and rather tend to apply a recoil pressure against the natural position the head would like to adopt. You should be able to adjust your pillow such that you can make a hollow for your head to lie in whilst still being able to bunch the edge of the pillow to form a thick support for your neck.

If the lying posture itself is thought to cause neck pain, it should be investigated for each person individually. In short, it is better if you can sleep on your back or your side. Some people prefer to sleep on their stomach and frequently wake up with a headache or neck pain and stiffness.

When lying face down, the head is turned to one side to allow breathing and avoid squashing the nose. In this position however, some of the joints, particularly those in the upper neck, approach the maximum degree of rotation. This strains the surrounding soft tissues of the neck and those between the upper neck and head.

Try to avoid lying face down when sleeping if you are waking up with neck pain. In addition, there are recommended exercises to ensure you can properly retract the head, extend the neck properly and have adequate range of motion when turning the head.

 

 

Cooling down after intense exercise

After exercising, avoid sitting or lying with the head in a protruded posture. Thoroughly exercised joints in the spine easily distort if they are held in an overstretched position for too long. Commonly, the exercise is blamed for the cause of neck pain but in many cases it is attributable to the prolonged forward bending of the head and neck when relaxing afterwards.

Working related causes

Some jobs can only be performed in positions likely to cause overstretching of the joints in the neck. These jobs may require sitting and performing precision work (microscopy, watchmaking) or working in cramped spaces with the head and neck in awkward static positions.

It may not be practical to prevent the onset of neck pain by regularly assuming the correct posture. Instead you will need to interrupt positions of overstretch frequently by performing the relevant neck exercises.

The neck has a tough job – holding your head on top of your shoulders every day. Try to become more aware about the positions you find yourself in more frequently and asses yourself as to whether you are likely to be causing your neck unnecessary strain. If you can prevent neck pain from occurring, you won’t ever have to worry about how to having it treated – that’s just a pain in the neck.

*DISCLAIMER: This discussion does not provide medical advice. The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained in this discussion are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this discussion is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this blog.

Neck Pain Explained

Neck Pain Explained

Possible explanations as to why your neck hurts.

The structure of the joints in the neck allows a large degree of flexibility in this part of the spine. The neck can also move relatively more freely than the rest of the spine as there are no additional bony structures attached in this region, such as a ribcage or pelvis. Without the support and protection of other structures however, the neck is more vulnerable when subjected to strain. Its very flexibility, so helpful and necessary for everyday living, is also the cause of many of our problems.

During upright standing, the head should be carried directly above the shoulder girdle forming a cervical lordosis. This is the small inward curve, observed from the side view, just above the shoulders. Postural neglect sees people carrying the head in front of their body with the chin poking forward. This alters the cervical lordosis such that the joints of the lower neck are bent forwards, whereas those of the upper neck are bent backwards. This is called forward head carriage or protruded head posture, and if present often or long enough, neck problems may develop.

Pain may arise in a neck joint when two opposing bone surfaces are placed in a position that overstretches the surrounding ligaments and other soft tissues. This position could be one where your head is slouched all the way forward, backward, to the side or any combination. At first, there may be only minor discomfort, but as time passes, if the joint is held in a position of overstretch, pain develops. The pain warning encourages you to stop overstretching to avoid damage. If you do so, the pain ceases immediately and no damage occurs.

Failure to heed the warning system may lead to ligamentous and soft tissue tearing. This produces an aching sensation that continues even when you stop the overstretching position. The pain may reduce in intensity but continues even when the neck is at rest. The pain increases with movement in the wrong direction and ceases only when some healing has occurred. Healing should only take several days but will be prolonged if you continue to apply the same strains to the neck each day.

It is often thought that neck pain is caused by strained muscles. These structures can be overstretched, but usually heal rapidly due to their dense blood supply and seldom cause pain lasting for more than a week. It is usually the ligaments and joint capsules underlying the muscles which are injured first. These tissues provide support for spinal joints and will injure if subjected to forces of overstretch.

The real problem stems from pain in and around the affected joint. An outside force may place a sudden severe strain on the neck either due to an accident, sudden movement or sporting event. More commonly, overstretching is caused by postural stresses placing less severe strains on the neck but over a longer time period. When the tissues heal they may form scar tissue that is less elastic and shorter in length than healthy “un-injured” ligamentous tissue. With the formation of scar tissue, normal movements now become painful as they stretch the “scars” in these shortened structures.

Sometimes the ligaments are injured to the extent that the intervertebral discs are affected. The disc loses its ability to absorb shock and its outer wall weakens. This allows the inner contents of the disc to bulge or protrude outside its normal confines and may press painfully on spinal nerves. This may explain some of the pains felt further away from the source of the injury, such as in the arm or hand. Complications of a bulging disc in the neck include: misalignment of the vertebra during normal movement patterns and headaches.

When you hurt your neck, if you simply wait for the pain to pass the tissues will heal somewhat, but they will be more likely to re-injure in the future. You might also be more susceptible to the “terrible” complication of a bulging disc. To avoid this neck pain becoming an ongoing problem, there are appropriate exercises you can perform to stretch and lengthen these tissues gradually, and restore their proper function.

Always seek professional advice the moment you hurt your neck. Physical therapy is an excellent means to speed recovery and promote effective healing of the tissues. Seeing a professional early on can be the difference between fixing your neck pain in less than a week versus one to three months of chronic pain.

To aid in the prevention of neck pain, you should familiarize yourself with other causes of neck pain. Awareness of these causes should hopefully see you avoiding neck pain altogether.

*DISCLAIMER: This discussion does not provide medical advice. The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained in this discussion are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this discussion is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this blog.

I’m still suffering!

I’m still suffering!

Why you’re still in pain and the treatment you’ve been receiving from your physical therapist is not working.

Do you feel you’ve reached a plateau with regards to your complaint? Do you return to the chiropractor each time with the same set of symptoms and question if he or she is actually helping? It’s groundhog day at the chiropractor’s place and you lie down on the bench for the same old treatment wondering, “Why am I here? Sure I feel good afterwards, but by this time next week I’ll be sore again!”

Depending on your complaint, you might visit the chiropractor up to three times per week over a certain time frame. Whilst this may seem excessive at first, consider that the length of time you receive actual treatment from the practitioner may only tally around 60mins. Given that there are 168 hours in a week, ask yourself,

“At this rate of treatment, is it realistic to expect my condition to rapidly improve to the point of full recovery?”

The point here is not that the practitioner should be relieved of any responsibility for the patient, but rather, to have the patient understand the importance of how he or she utilises the time in between successive treatments. Practitioners frequently provide homework to their patients in an effort to consolidate the advances made in the treatment rooms and accelerate their recovery.

In acute injuries, typically the more painful, patients are more compliant and do their homework religiously as they are eager to reduce their pain. However, for more prolonged, less painful but still annoying injuries, the devotion to this homework dwindles as care progresses, and quite often never even happens.

This leads to the patient falling in to the vicious cycle:

It is the practitioner’s job to have the patient understand what is causing their suffering, how it came about, and to treat and advise on relieving the pain, and repairing their injury. Whilst the physical therapy will be helpful, following the advice of your practitioner will also be critical to a successful outcome. This advice might be in the form of home therapy exercises (eg. back or neck exercises), modifications to your workstation environment or adhering to a structured exercise program.

Consider the following common scenario. An office worker has been suffering lower back pain on and off for a year or more. The person is an accountant who works full time, 50hrs per week sitting at a desk. Assuming there is no history of any major accidents, it is quite likely the lower back pain is due to poor sitting posture and quite possibly unsuitable chair design.

Often, these people don’t just sit at their desk all day, they sit on the train to and from work, and sit on the couch in front of the television after work. Unless there is some form of intervention in this monotonous daily routine, this person’s condition will not improve.

An appropriate intervention is to seek the advice of a health practitioner, but as illustrated earlier, in order to reap the most benefit from treatment and break the cycle of recurring symptoms, the patient will need to conscientiously follow the practitioner’s health advice.

In this way, the patient breaks the vicious cycle leading the way to better health:

On the contrary, the same problems are experienced in people who follow regular physical activity as well. The difference here is that whilst these people are doing the right thing, being active, often their routines are not varied enough. They might do the same aerobics class three times per week, or stick to the same gym program, etcetera.

Again, one needs to introduce something different, more challenging or specific to their body in order to break the cycle of recurring pain and symptoms. Always check with your health practitioner if there’s not something more you could be doing to improve your condition.

And most importantly, recognise that the responsibility for achieving full recovery is usually a responsibility that is shared by practitioner and patient.

*DISCLAIMER: This discussion does not provide medical advice. The information, including but not limited to, text, graphics, images and other material contained in this discussion are for informational purposes only. The purpose of this discussion is to promote broad consumer understanding and knowledge of various health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen, and never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read in this blog.