Each year thousands of Americans seek neck pain relief. In fact, it is estimated that two out of three Americans will suffer from neck pain at some point in their lives. Whether it is the result of injury, strain, overuse, or degenerative conditions makes no difference to the neck pain sufferer-it still hurts. Neck pain relief can be elusive. Getting to the cause of the pain can be confusing. Some neck pain can be self limiting of course, but it is often a warning signal. Neck pain may warn us of the presence of a severe condition that may lead to loss of work or worse. Sometimes if the cause is not detected and corrected in time, surgery may be eventually necessary.
Some neck pain may be minor or self limiting. Below is a list of common causes of minor neck pain we see in our office.
- Improper sleeping position
- Improper posture at the computer/desk
- Improper posture during work or exercise
- Sports related mild strain
If neck pain is persistent do not ignore it. Warning signs of potentially serious neck pain include:
- Persistent neck pain that will not go away
- Any radiation, tingling or numbness into the shoulder, arm or hands
- Muscle weakness or atrophy
- Limited mobility or range of motion. For example, you cannot turn your head to look for oncoming traffic.
If you experience any of the symptoms in the list above, I suggest you seek help with a qualified health professional. Someone who is familiar with these problems and can help you get to the source of your problem. We see this type of problem almost every single day in our office and are quite familiar with the many causes and treatments for neck problems.
One very common cause of neck pain is joint dysfunction in the spine. When the spinal vertebrae become misaligned, “fixated” or stuck together, it can cause uneven wear and tear leading to pain. Spinal dysfunction, often referred to as “spinal subluxation” causes local tissue irritation. It can cause uneven wear and tear on the joints, disks, nerves and surrounding tissue eventually leading to degenerative disk disease and local osteoarthritis.
As mentioned above, neck pain may have many causes. My patients report: “I must have slept on it wrong” or “I just woke up with a crick in my neck.” Some other causes of neck pain can be obvious trauma such as a sports injury or auto accident. Degenerative disk disease or herniated cervical disk are serious problems that can lead to neck pain and headaches. Headaches are often times found along with neck pain. This is called “cervicogenic” neck pain and is extremely common, even with migraines. Knowing not only the cause, but how far it has progressed and what affect the problem is having on the surrounding tissue and nerves is the first step in neck pain relief and healing. Below, we will examine a few causes of injury to the neck resulting in neck pain.
Whiplash: Some causes of whiplash or “acceleration/deceleration” injury can be falls, sports injury impacts or auto accidents. In this situation, the head is usually thrown forward and or backwards and can result in soft tissue tearing and injury. Usually the person with a whiplash type injury will have extremely sore muscles around the head, neck and shoulder area. The whiplash sufferer may have a multitude of symptoms including dizziness, jaw pain and headaches.
Degenerative disk disease: I have put this one after whiplash, because in my opinion, one of the common causes of neck degeneration is past trauma including whiplash. In this situation, the vertebrae of the neck may start to spur. The disks, or cushions between the vertebra begin to dry out and lose their elasticity. Since the disks are designed to cushion the vertebrae and allow for flexible movement and protection, those suffering from degenerative disk may have many symptoms. Stiff neck, neck cracks or pops on movement, limited movement or range of motion. If it has progressed far enough, radiating pain or “radiculopathy” may occur where the patient gets pain or numbness down the arm perhaps as far as into the hand. If it is more progressed, there may be weakness that can result in “dropping” things from the hand like a coffee cup etc. Disk degeneration is a serious condition and should not be taken lightly. If one has radiating pain or “drops” they should consult a professional as soon as possible.
For minor neck pain relief try the following.
- Rest at the end of the day lying on your back with a towel rolled up about the size of your forearm. Place it carefully in the small curve of your neck and rest comfortably for about 10-15 minutes. This will often give neck pain relief for minor neck pain sufferers.
- Ice: Use ice especially if you have had a recent injury or strain. Heat may feel better, but ice is never harmful. Leave it on no longer than 15-20 minutes per hour. I highly recommend ice if you have any radiating pain at all. With radiating pain-do not use heat.
- Gentle neck and shoulder rub. This can be done by a professional or simply a caring family member.
- Of course, chiropractic care is advised in the instance of any joint problem in the body. The neck is especially vulnerable to spinal joint dysfunction due to its unsupported nature and the weight of the head resting upon it.
Headaches, neck pain, shoulder pain and radiating pain are often treated successfully and effectively with chiropractic care. In our office we see these conditions every day and have excellent results with these types of cases. Give us a call and we will be happy to discuss your particular situation to see if we can help you too.