Patients report the following as the most common symptoms of neck pain: muscle tightness and spasms, decreased ability to move one’s head, stiffness along the neck and shoulders, and headaches. For many, the pain usually begins or increases after sitting for a long time (such as after spending hours on the computer).
Remember that your neck (or cervical spine) is made up of small vertebrae. While it is flexible, it supports the weight of your head (about the weight of a bowling ball!). This leaves the neck vulnerable to conditions that cause pain and discomfort. Most causes of neck pain are not very severe, but if you have recently been in a driving accident or have fallen, it is best to contact your doctor immediately. Less severe causes of neck pain include:
Muscle strains: Poor posture and overuse - such as being hunched over on the computer or phone for hours, reading in an awkward position, or even grinding your teeth in your sleep - could contribute to muscle strains.
Nerve compression: Herniated disks or bone spurs in the neck vertebrae can press on the nerves branching from the spinal cord, causing neck pain and soreness.
Age/worn joints: As with other joints, neck joints begin to wear down as we age. Osteoarthritis causes the cartilage between the bones to deteriorate, causing pain and restricting the neck’s range of motion.
Injuries/Disease: Whiplash and other injuries strain the soft tissues of the neck, causing pain and leaving the neck vulnerable to further injuries. Having rheumatoid arthritis, meningitis, and other diseases could also be contributing to your neck pain.
Treatment & Prevention
Chiropractic care: Proper chiropractic care will accelerate your healing process. Remember that chiropractic care is non-invasive and does not use drugs or addictive therapies, but rather helps your body heal itself by increasing joint mobility and improving the nervous system function. During your first visit, your chiropractor will perform a physical exam to observe your posture, range of motion, and physical condition. Your chiropractor will feel your spine and note its alignment, as well as your shoulder. Reflexes and muscle strength may be examined, and your doctor will ask you questions about the neck pain and your habits. Further tests could be ordered if necessary. Your chiropractic doctor will perform a neck adjustment, or cervical manipulation - directly applied to the neck joints. Rehabilitative exercises may also be necessary for recovery. In a 2009 study by the Journal of Chiropractic Medicine, 99 patients with neck pain were provided chiropractic care in efforts to reduce their discomfort. The pain intensity scores reduced significantly by the final evaluations, with no adverse effects on the patients (NCBI).
Gentle stretching: Start with your head in a neutral position. Slowly turn your head to the right and hold for a few seconds, then return to the neutral position. Do the same on the left side. Neck rolls are not recommended, as the neck was not designed for such a bending range of motion (stick to left, right, forward, and back).
Incorporate good posture: Ensure that your shoulders are in a straight line over your hips and that your ears are directly over your shoulders when you are sitting or standing. When laying down, your head and neck should be aligned with the rest of your body.
Switch it up: Don’t tuck your phone between your ear and shoulder when you talk, as this could strain your neck. Don’t carry heavy items strapped over your shoulder. If you work at the computer or if you sit for long periods of time, ensure that you take frequent breaks to walk and stretch, and adjust your monitor so that it is at eye level as much as possible.
If you suffer from neck discomfort and would like to give chiropractic care a try, give us a call today at (828) 277-0903. You can also request an appointment online. We would also love to connect with you on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Check out the rest of our blog for more posts on how chiropractic care can help you achieve overall wellness!