Neck pain is a common complaint in industrialized countries and constitutes a major medical and socio-economic problem. Pain in the neck is one of the 5 top most commonly reported complaints of the neuromusculoskeletal system (NMS). It accounts for 10-20% of NMS complaints in the American population and about 2/3 of individuals in their lifetime will experience significant neck pain. The problem occurs more frequently in women than for men and the highest occurs around the age of 50. Neck pain can be accompanied by headache or by radiating complaints across the tops of the shoulders and into the arms including the hands and fingers.
Neck pain can result from something as simple as waking up with a stiff and sore neck caused by sleeping in an awkward position in a chair, on a couch, during airline travel or on a long car ride. It also is prevalent in the work place due to poor design of computer work stations. Neck pain can also be as complicated as a disc herniation or rupture.
The head weighs approximately 8-11 pounds. It sits atop the neck and is stabilized by muscles and ligaments. The biomechanics of the neck may be altered by several different actions, activities or traumas.
Causes of Neck Pain
Pain in the neck can be attributed to many different sources. In addition to injury, there are many causes to consider. When you visit your doctor, be prepared to give the history of the onset of your complaints, duration of the symptoms and how it affects you at home. Work or recreation also need to be discussed. This information will help your doctor during the examination. What can contribute to neck pain? Here are some possibilities:
- Referred pain to the neck – pain is present elsewhere, such as the shoulder, but radiates up or into the neck. This includes bone, ligament or muscle.
- Cervical disc – this can be spontaneous or traumatic.
Non-Traumatic Cause of Neck Pain
There are many conditions and diseases that can manifest with neck pain. This also includes conditions that refer pain to the neck from other parts of the body. A partial list includes:
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
- Myofascial pain syndrome
- Scapulo-Costal Syndrome
- Sinus infection
- Poor posture or work habits
- Systemic causes of neck pain – description and discussion is beyond the scope of this article, but it includes things such as multiple myeloma and polymyalgia rheumatica
The shoulder is a common source of neck pain. The following conditions can radiate pain into the neck:
- Rotator cuff injury
- Strain and Sprain of the Shoulder
- Adhesive Capsulitis – “frozen shoulder”
- Shoulder Impingement
- Upper Back Myofascial Trigger Points
Trauma to the Muscles, Ligaments and Bones
Traumatic injuries bring patients to the office or a hospital almost immediately. Injuries can vary from a mild muscle strain to a serious fracture or dislocation. A careful history and examination will be completed before treatment recommendations are given. The following list is not all inclusive.
- Whiplash Injury
- Sports Injury
- Facet Joint Disease
- Vertebral Fracture
- Primary Bone Tumor
- Disc Herniation
- Disc Infection
- Degenerative Disc Disease – Arthritis
Self-Care and Treatment of Neck Conditions
Care and treatment of your neck condition may encompass any number of treatments and therapies. What can be done at home, office or during your activities of daily living(ADL)?
- Self Care – ice is better than heat for acute injury or onset of pain.
- Avoid activities that aggravate the symptoms.
- Avoid sleeping on your stomach. Sleeping with the neck in this awkward position stresses the upper neck if it is kept in this posture even for a very short period of time.
When experiencing cervical spine and extremity pain, a history and examination of the neck is essential for your doctor to determine the cause of your symptoms. Your neck pain may seem like the same problem you have experienced in the past, but circumstances and causes of the pain can change. History and examination will determine if it is “the same” or something new.Office care and treatment of your neck problem will be discussed. The doctors at Coon Rapids Chiropractic Office have experience in caring for cervical spine or neck injury.