Neck pain or a stiff neck is extremely common and can affect your life in so many different ways. Whether it be sharp neck pain, dull muscular aches, headache, or an inability to fully move your head, a sore neck can be very frustrating yet it can be simple to fix in the majority of cases with a proper diagnosis.
Neck pain is very common effecting up to 60% of people at some stage in their lives. As a Chiropractor in Erina with a special interest in neck pain I have seen the percentage of people coming to us for neck pain slowly increase over the last 15 years and more alarmingly the age of people coming in with problems getting younger with computer and phone use.
So what we want to go over is to give you an idea based on your symptoms and the type of pain what is causing your neck pain, what you can do to help and how long you can expect it to last. Please remember any advice is general and it is always advised that you seek the advice of a trained professional.
- Its rarely the muscles!
Most people don’t realize that a muscle will only do what it is told to do by your brain and the nerves. It doesn’t just go into spasm for no reason or become tight on its own! So if your neck pain has gone on for over a week and without there being a major trauma as the cause then most likely there is an underlying cause that needs to be addressed. The pain may well go away but if there is underlying degeneration, abnormal spinal movement or other problems they need to be addressed. A muscle problem will be sore when you move in a specific direction but not others, it will generally be worse at the end of the day and feel better with heat.
- The Disc
We have all heard of someone “slipping a disc”. Now that doesn’t actually happen but the disc is the most common structure to be injured in the neck particularly if you are in the 30 to 50 year age range.
Often due to abnormal movement over a period of time the disc actually starts to get worn down. The fibres around the outside of the disc start to break down and the disc material (a jelly type of substance starts to push into the outer fibres. These outer fibres have lots of pain sensitive nerves within them that can give you local pain in the neck or pain that radiates to the head, shoulder, arm and hand.
Disc problems can also cause weakness and pins and needles or numbness if severe. Bending your head down will typically aggravate a disc problem, it will generally be worse in the morning and may improve with analgesics that target the brain and nerves short term.
- Facet Joint Problems.
Facet joint problems are the second most common cause of neck pain and headaches. Typically you will get pain looking over your shoulder (often people only really get pain when driving in the car and looking over the shoulder). It is worse in the afternoon and can improve short term with heat. These joints can cause you to get “stuck” in a certain position or have a “wry” neck. There is a small fold of ligament called a mensicus that is unique to the neck that can often become entrapped causing severe and acute neck pain and an inability to move. This responds very well to specific Chiropractic treatment as it is because the brain has lost control over how the joints should move. Chiropractic care helps restore this communication between the brain, the spine and the nerves.
- So What’s Best Ice or Heat?
Its a question we often receive and can make a big difference to how quickly someone can get back to normal life. Research shows that ice is still best for the initial 24 to 48 hours depending on the severity of the injury.
It is then recommended that you alternate ice and heat using 15 minutes of each. Always start with the heat so you don’t burn yourself without knowing using the heat after the ice.
Once you are out of the acute phase then heat is recommended.
- The Secret Weapon.
I cant tell you how many times someone has limped into our office holding their neck and barely able to move and has walked out smiling and moving well to the astonishment of other people in the waiting room. So now I am going to tell you how we do it (well part of it any way).
We use a muscle inhibition technique. So if you have trouble turning your head to the right you should turn your head to the left and push against your hand as though you are stopping yourself from doing it. Then turn your head back to the right as far as you can comfortably and go back to the left again pushing against your hand (you should be able to go a little further each time). This helps to sort of switch off the muscle spasm and enable you to move freer short term.