Neck Pain: What You Should Know

Neck pain

Neck pain: A pain in the neck!

neck pain

Neck pain is a pain in the neck!

Ever wondered why an extremely annoying or an absolutely pest of a person is called “a pain in the neck?” The idiomatic expression, “a pain in the neck,” was first used in the 19th century as a more polite version of the expression “a pain in the ass.” This was coined presumably because neck pain, like the person one is alluding to, can be very annoying. Neck pain is supposedly not extremely painful, but it can cause a lot of discomfort and can be quite bothersome.

The neck, as everybody knows, is what separates the head from the rest of the body. Anything relating to the neck is medically referred to as “cervical.” It has the important task of supporting the head and protecting all the nerves running from the brain down to the rest of the body. It is because of this stressful task that everyone is sure to experience a form of neck pain at some point in his life. My chiropractic clinic in Lakewood has seen thousands of these cases over the years.

A stiff neck pain can be acute neck pain that can be the result of some sort of muscle strain, such as whiplash, or from body positions that can cause strain on the neck, while sleeping in awkward positions, for example. Whiplash is a term for neck injuries caused by a sudden outside force causing the spinal cord, especially the neck section, to be distorted or extended. This is the most common complaint of people who have experienced car accidents or who have fallen from horses or bicycles. A personal injury attorney in Denver that I consult with agrees with me. In the United Kingdom, three-fourths of all insurance claims are made from whiplash complaints. Whiplash is also called axial neck pain and can result from low impact collisions, especially if you are hit from behind (rear ended). Just this morning driving on Wadsworth boulevard in Lakewood coming from Littleton, I saw an auto accident and it appeared that the person who was in the collision was suffering from neck pain and it had only been a few minutes!

What are some neck pain causes? In many studies, the exact causes of mechanical or axial pain are the most disputed. In fact, most of the causes for this type of pain are all theories that have yet to be proven beyond any doubt. Some of the suggested causes are stress, bad posture or position, and even overuse. Diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, wherein there is pain and inflammation in the joints, and fibromyalgia, wherein there is chronic pain in all the muscles and tissues in the body, are also known to cause axial neck pain.

Radiculopathy is a neurological effect on the nerve root or a nerve in the spine that may be compressed, causing the radiating pain into the shoulder, arm or hand and fingers. People who do heavy labor, repetitive motions or those involved in contact sports, often suffer from this type of pain, as their activities expose the spine to heavy loads and forces that result in compression. Disorders like multiple sclerosis, spinal stenosis or diabetes can also cause this type of neck pain as well.

Meanwhile, myelopathy neck pain is normally caused by injury to the spinal cord and is not something that a chiropractor normally treats.

What are the neck pain symptoms? Symptoms for axial pain include pain in either one or both sides of the neck, painful and limited range of motion, rigidity of the neck, “kinks” in the neck, and neck pain or tension headaches, otherwise known as cervicogenic headaches- which chiropractic care can be very effective in helping.

The major symptom for those suffering from radiculopathy neck pain, aside from the pain in the neck, is loss of feeling or sensation in the arms or legs. People with myelopathy usually suffer from pains in the neck, dysfunction of their upper and lower extremities, incontinence, and heightened knee and ankle reflexes. Neck pain diagnosis for axial pains is done using standard tests for range of motion, such as bending and rotation of the neck. These test the muscles and/or ligaments in the neck area that are involved in the pain.

Diagnosis for radiculopathy involves physical examination to check the person’s reflexes, sensory-motor range, and muscle strength. Myelopathy can usually be detected through neurological exams, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), CT (computed tomography) scan, and physical examinations, involving involuntary movements of the extremities.

What is considered the best neck pain treatment for neck pain symptoms? Available treatments for those suffering from mechanical neck pain include correction of posture, lessening of stress levels, or adjustments or spinal decompression from chiropractors. Visiting a chiropractor for regular maintenance on the spine can prove beneficial in many ways, including, but not limited to, proper nerve communication, spinal alignment, and better posture.

Most of the people who have been diagnosed with radiculopathy or a herniated disc and neck pain may seek conservative relief through the help of chiropractors with non-surgical spinal decompression therapy.

Surgery may be an option for those who have myelopathy. The surgical options available include spinal fusion wherein bone grafts or hardware are placed into  the spine, decompression of the disc and bone, and laminectomy wherein sections of the bone are removed from the back of the neck.  Medications like analgesics and anti-inflammatory drugs are also prescribed.  Non-surgical treatments aim at minimizing pain and improving some movements of the extremities through activities such as stretching and cardiovascular exercises.

Acute vs. Chronic Pain

All the types of neck pain discussed above can be further subdivided into acute or chronic pain. Acute neck pain can usually be resolved within a short period of time, normally two to three weeks. Chronic pain may last longer than two months and may require more aggressive treatment.

Neck pain is something that shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Statistics show that over 80% of American adults are suffering, or have suffered, from some type of neck pain. Out of this total number, 60% suffer from chronic pain and the remaining 40% recover fully after a short period of time. Even children are not exempt from this debilitating disorder. Medical cases have shown that children can suffer from neck pain when they sustain skateboard or bicycle falls, jump on the trampoline, carry heavy school backpacks daily, suffer from obesity, sit in front of the television or computer for prolonged periods of time, or use too many pillows when sleeping. Many Colorado sports activities can lead to sports injuries like skiing at places like Vail, Loveland, Keystone etc.

You should not wait to become part of the statistics for neck pain before taking action. Neck pain can be prevented through a healthy diet, regular exercise, proper posture and ergonomics (while sitting, standing, and lying down), and less emotional stress. It must also be kept in mind that when a person suffers from neck pain, no matter how slight or fleeting, it is always best not to self-medicate; instead, seek help for neck pain.

Posted from Denver, Colorado, United States.

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Ron Spallone

Dr. Ron Spallone, DC is the chiropractic clinic director. His passion is the driving force behind Denver Chiropractor dot com. He's been a Colorado chiropractor for over 15 years.

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