Your neck (cervical spine) supports both the weight and movement of your head, quite a job since an adults’ head can weigh between 4 and 6 kg, and it contains the vast majority of nerves that connect your brain to the rest of your body. Neck pain is the second most common reason after low back pain to consult a chiropractor. At any given time about 12% of the adult female and 9% of the adult male population suffer with some form of neck pain.
Common Causes of Neck Pain
Neck pain can be of sudden onset (acute) which may occur during everyday activities such as on waking and turning your head, or it may be associated with a specific event such as a road traffic accident. It can also develop gradually overtime (chronic) and this is usually due to poor biomechanics. There are many contributing factors for both forms of neck pain including a poor working or sleeping position, repetitive lifting, manual labour, whiplash injury or prolonged, but one of the most common is incorrect posture. This can lead to the development of imbalances within the neck and thus an increase in the load on the neck joints, muscles and ligaments and in turn the development of pain. Neck pain is also known to have an association with high stress levels.
Where Does Neck Pain Come From?
The cervical spine is made up of 7 bones called vertebrae which are linked by joints on both the right and left hand side, these are known as facet joints. Muscles and strong ligaments overlie and attach to these allowing for both movement and support of the neck. Lying in between the vertebrae are the discs which act as shock absorbers cushioning one bone from another. Any one of the above structures is a possible pain generator and it is more than likely that it will be a combination of at least two or three of these. It is common that there is a loss in the normal movement of the joints which can result in the tightening of the surrounding muscles. This can cause irritation to the surrounding nerves and thus pain.
Neck pain is also closely linked to both headaches and shoulder pain as both the cervical vertebrae and the local musculature are capable of referring pain into these regions. In fact some studies suggest that as much as 70% of headaches will have a contribution from the neck. The nerves exiting the lower portion of the cervical spine supply the upper limbs, and if these become irritated symptoms such as pain, pins and needles or weakness into the arm, hand or fingers may develop, much like sciatica causes leg symptoms.
Chiropractic Treatment for Neck Pain
Our chiropractors treat neck pain using a tailor made package of care for each individual. The elements of which will be determined by both your history and examination findings, and will be based on current research and years of clinical experience. It may include gentle specific adjustments to the joints in the neck known as spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) this increases the available movement at the joint, relaxes down the surrounding muscles and reduces the local irritation to the nerves, deep tissue work (massage, myofascial release techniques, trigger point therapy and cross friction) to ease out the fibrous adhesions (knots) and tension in the surrounding musculature.
Most importantly home rehabilitation , postural and ergonomic advice to address any imbalances and possible attributing factors will be provided to you by your chiropractor.