Oh My Aching Neck!
Neck pain can come from many sources.
It can be Structural, Bacterial, Viral, Toxin and Neurological so it’s best to consult with your doctor when you are having neck pain.
As a chiropractor and functional medicine doctor, I see patients suffer with neck pain coming into my office and when it is structural the often end up walking out pain-free.
Sometimes its not that easy. A follow-up visit, ice, rest and magnesium (a natural muscle relaxant) might be recommended.
But where does neck pain come from and what can you do about it?
First an Anatomy Lesson
The cervical spine, which consists of seven small bones called vertebrae (C1 to C7) creates our neck. These vertebrae provide flexibility and protect the spinal cord.
There are several muscles in the neck that help with movement and support. The main ones include the sternocleidomastoid, trapezius, and scalene muscles.
The esophagus is a muscular tube that carries food from the mouth to the stomach, passing through the neck on its way down the body. We talk about the esophagus here.
Also known as the windpipe, the trachea allows air to pass from the mouth and nose to the lungs, providing a pathway for breathing.
The thyroid is a small gland in the neck that produces hormones that regulate metabolism and various bodily functions. Thyroid symptoms often include fatigue, weight issues, feeling too hot or too cold and brain fog. If you have any of these symptoms, let’s work together to resolve them.
There are important blood vessels in the neck, including the carotid arteries, which supply blood to the brain, and the jugular veins, which carry deoxygenated blood back to the heart.
The neck contains lymph nodes that play a crucial role in filtering lymph fluid and fighting infections.
It is rich in nerves that connect the brain to different parts of the body, allowing for communication and control.
The neck contributes to essential functions like breathing, swallowing, and supporting the head’s movements.
Common Structural Causes of an Achey Neck
Do you slouch on the couch or at your desk? One of the most common causes of neck pain is muscle strain or sprain. Poor posture, overuse of neck muscles, repetitive movements, or sudden jerking motions can lead to muscle imbalances and strain, resulting in pain. A great way to prevent this is to look up! Looking up periodically throughout your day can reestablish the curve in your neck that allows for shock absorption.
Cervical Disc Herniation:
Have you had a car accident or whiplash from a roller coaster? When I was little I remember being on a carnival ride called The Himalayan. It went in a circle with sudden movements forward and backward. I was too short for my little head to reach the head cushion so my head bounced against the metal seat back. When I got off the ride I ran straight to the garbage bin to donate whatever junk food I enjoyed that day. The cervical discs act as shock absorbers between the vertebrae in the neck. When a disc herniates or ruptures, the inner gel-like material can press on a nerve, causing neck pain, as well as pain, numbness, or weakness that radiates into the arms.
To provide gentle traction on the neck and provide relief, put two tennis balls in a sock and tie it off so the balls are tight together. Lie on the floor with the two balls horizontal just under the area where the base of your skull meets your neck. Rest there for 5-10 minutes. Take a 20 minute break before you do it again.
Are you over 40 years old? This refers to degenerative changes in the neck vertebrae and intervertebral discs. With age, the discs can lose moisture and height, and the joints between the vertebrae can develop arthritis. These changes can contribute to neck pain and stiffness.
Take frequent breaks from the computer and cell phone. Look up, look around and stretch the muscles in your neck. Your nose moves forward toward your screen the longer you are on it so take frequent breaks.
Do you have a sedentary job? Stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal in the neck region, which can put pressure on the spinal cord or nerves, leading to neck pain, as well as numbness, weakness, or problems with balance and coordination. It is often from a lack of movement over time.
Join a class of yoga, tai chi or qi gong to get the neck moving again and prevent further problems.
Roller coaster anyone?? Whiplash typically occurs due to a sudden forceful back-and-forth movement of the neck, often experienced in car accidents or roller coasters. This can strain the soft tissues, ligaments, and muscles of the neck, resulting in pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion.
Come in for an evaluation and adjustment.
Do you have a computer or cell phone? Prolonged sitting or working in positions that strain the neck, such as looking down at a computer or mobile device, can lead to neck pain. Poor posture puts additional stress on the neck muscles, ligaments, and discs.
Make sure your work area is ergonomically correct. Check the height of your chair and your screen making sure the position is optimal for you.
Rarely, structural abnormalities present at birth or acquired later in life, such as jaw problems, abnormalities of the vertebrae or spinal curvature disorders like scoliosis, can contribute to neck pain.
Keep your spine moving to maintain the best health possible.
Psychological factors, such as stress and anxiety, can also cause neck pain or make it more difficult to manage.
Let’s work together to get you out of a “fight or flight” state.
Make an appointment with me for a comprehensive evaluation to evaluate where your pain is coming from and what we can do for you to have a pain-free neck.
Watch How I Use Muscle Testing To