Cervical pain is a broad classification of various conditions of pain in the neck. Because of the complex structures in the neck, these pains can be related to the vertebrae, the muscles, the nerves, or a combination of factors related to these structures. All can be painful, but all can be treated.
This week, we will begin to explore the subject of neck pain. This is a broad subject for a relatively small area of the body, but it is a arguably one of the most common complaints, as well as one of the most persistent pains one can experience.
Neck pain can be particularly nagging and frustrating to deal with, and can last for years if left undiagnosed and treated. Hopefully, this article will provide some helpful insight to the neck pain sufferer.
The Neck Defined:
The neck (cervical spine) is composed of vertebrae that begin in the upper torso and end at the base of the skull. The bony vertebrae along with the ligaments and muscles provide stability to the spine. The muscles allow for support and motion.
The neck has a significant amount of motion and supports the weight of the head. However, because it is less protected than the rest of the spine, the neck can be vulnerable to injury and disorders that produce pain and restrict motion. For many people, neck pain is a temporary condition that disappears with time. Others need medical diagnosis and treatment to relieve their symptoms.
Neck pain can occur anywhere in your neck, from the bottom of your head to the top of your shoulders. It can spread to your upper back or arms. It may limit how much you can move your head and neck. Neck pain is common, especially in people older than 50.
Any injury that places stress or pressure on your neck has the potential to cause neck pain. General causes of neck injury include:
Car accidents, especially rear-impact collisions
Diving into unknown waters
Lifting heavy objects
Repetitive activities, such as working at a computer
Sports, such as football, horseback riding, and hockey
More specific types of injuries that lead to neck pain include:
Whiplash, which is usually due to an accident that causes your head to move around violently, is thought to be the most common type of neck injury. In whiplash, damage to the soft tissues in your neck, including muscles, ligaments, and nerves, can lead to a variety of symptoms, such as neck pain and stiffness, headache, dizziness, and tingling, numbness, or weakness in your neck and limbs.
Repetitive strain. Poor posture or maintaining an awkward position while working at the computer, sleeping on an inadequate pillow, or reading in bed can cause the muscles in your neck to become strained. Over time, this muscle strain can lead to neck pain.
Sprains and strains. Certain injuries, especially sports-related injuries, may cause muscle strains and ligament sprains in the neck. This type of injury usually results in neck pain that is aggravated by activity. With rest and anti-inflammatory medication, like ibuprofen and naproxen, neck sprains and strains usually heal over time.
Nerve pinch injury. Another common sports-related injury that can result in neck pain is a nerve pinch injury, also known as a "stinger" or "burner" injury. A pinched or compromised nerve in the neck can produce sharp, shooting sensations in the neck and arms. Pinched nerve symptoms typically go away fairly quickly.
Disk injury. If an injury, such as heavy lifting, results in damage to a vertebral disk, nerves in the neck may become irritated, causing pain to travel from the neck into the legs.
Vertebral fracture. Some injuries can cause a vertebra in your neck to fracture, or break. This type of neck injury is always a medical emergency since a spinal fracture can damage the spinal cord, leading to paralysis or even death.
Spinal cord damage. A neck injury may result in spinal cord damage if the accident is severe enough to disrupt the vertebral bones designed to protect the spinal cord. Since the spinal cord is made up of essential nerve elements, spinal cord injuries can cause partial or complete paralysis, and even death. Car accidents, sports-related injuries, and diving injuries can all damage the spinal cord.
Depending on the type of injury you experience, damage or strain to your neck may result in neck pain as well as headache, shoulder pain, and numbness or tingling in the arms and legs.
Next time, we will continue this study of neck pain by defining the neck, then went through an exhaustive list of causes. Next time, we will continue this investigation by discussing the symptoms of neck injury, when to see a physician, and outlining how a physician diagnoses neck pain.
If you are experiencing a neck pain, don’t wait for your family physician; visit Excel Rehabilitation Services on Burnside Ave. in Gonzales, Louisiana. You will receive one-on-one care from an experienced physical therapist!