The neck has a significant amount of movement and supports the weight of the head. However, because it’s less protected compared to the remainder of the spine, the neck can be susceptible to injury and disorders that produce pain and restrict motion.
Anatomy of the neck
The neck (cervical spine) comprises of seven small bones (vertebrae) that start at the base of the skull and end in the upper torso. The bony vertebrae separated by intervertebral discs together with the ligaments and muscles provide stability to the spine. The muscles provide support and motion.
Causes of neck pain
Neck pain may result from a sprain or tear can in the soft tissues any time a sudden movement causes the neck to bend in an extreme position. The most common causes of neck pain are soft-tissue abnormalities due to injury (a sprain) or prolonged wear and tear leading to disc degeneration.
• Sprain – Since the neck is so flexible and because it supports the head, it is very prone to injury. Motor vehicle accidents, contact sports, and falls may lead to neck injury. A “rear end” automobile collision may result in hyperextension, a backward motion of the neck beyond normal limits, or hyperflexion, a forward motion of the neck beyond normal limits.
• Disc Degeneration – The disc acts as a shock absorber between the bones in the neck. In cervical disc degeneration the space between the vertebrae narrows and consequently the extra stress is applied to the joints of the spine causing further wear and degenerative disease. The cervical disc can also protrude and add pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots when the outer section of the disc weakens. This is what’s called a herniated cervical disc.
Symptoms of neck pain
• Anyone with a neck sprain may go through an array of possible symptoms.
• Pain, especially in the back of the neck, that worsens with movement
• Pain that peaks a day or so after the injury, rather than immediately
• Muscle spasms and pain in the upper shoulder
• Headache in the back of the head
• Increased irritability, fatigue, trouble sleeping, and difficulty concentrating
• Numbness in the arm or hand
• Neck stiffness or decreased mobility (sideways, vertical, circular)
• Tingling or weakness in the arms
Treatment for neck pain
• An anti-inflammatory such as voltaren may help reduce the pain and any swelling
• Muscle relaxants can help ease spasms
• You can apply a cold pack for 15 to 30 minutes at one time, a couple of times a day for the first 2 or 3 days following the injury. This will assist in reducing inflammation and discomfort. Although heat might help loosen cramped muscles, it shouldn’t be applied too soon
• Gentle Chiropractic treatment can help restore normal joint motion, which will stabilize the spine.
• Aerobic and isometric exercise.