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7 Reasons Your Neck Hurts and What to Do About It

Neck pain is very common and most people will suffer some form of neck pain during their lives. Sometimes it gets better quickly but it can also be very debilitating and many people will suffer with neck pain on and off for many years. But what causes neck pain?


Many people have jobs where they work at a desk and commonly at a computer or laptop. This is leading to an increase in poor posture amongst the population. In addition mobile phones and tablets are contributing to a condition now referred to as ‘text neck’ caused by spending long periods of time looking down at such devices. This causes pain as well as muscle spasms in the back and neck and can also cause shoulder pain and contribute to nerve pain or arthritis. To avoid this you should have your computer or laptop at eye level and take regular breaks from your electronic devices throughout the day. When you sit back down at the computer think about your posture and try to sit up straight! Simple neck stretches can also help to keep your muscles loose by bending your head to the left and then to the right and then dropping your chin to your chest.


The way that you sleep is very important if you want to prevent neck pain or to recover from an injury to your neck. A surprising amount of people sleep on their front, which is the worst position for your neck! When sleeping in this position the first thing you will do is turn your head either left or right so you can breath which automatically twists the neck into the wrong position. If you also have your head on a pillow your neck is raised into an unnatural position putting additional stress on the joints and discs. The best position to sleep in is on your back or either side, with the correct pillow. Your pillow should be comfortable and keep your neck in a ‘neutral alignment’ meaning that your head is neither raised above your shoulders nor dropped below them. The best way to achieve this is with an orthopedic pillow, which is specially designed to keep the spine straight while you sleep.


You may have been told that the cause of your neck pain is ‘wear and tear’ but what does this actually mean? Wear and tear is another way to describe arthritis of the neck, otherwise known as osteoarthritis or cervical spondylosis. It is a common condition which affects the joints and discs in your neck. Arthritis is age related and present in more than 85 percent of people over the age of 60. For some people it causes severe pain and stiffness, however not all people with arthritis in the neck will experience pain. Although the risk of developing arthritis increases with age there are other risk factors associated with the condition such as neck injuries, work related activities that strain the neck, repetitive neck strain, smoking and inactivity.


Many people have sprained an ankle in their lifetime but did you know you can sprain your neck as well? Sprains or strains are injuries that can occur to any area of the body and often are the result of some kind of physical activity. A very common injury, they can be minor or much more severe depending on the mechanism of the injury. A lot of people ask what is the difference between a sprain and a strain? Well it’s to do with the area that is affected. Sprains occur at joints and affect the ligaments connecting each bone whereas strains affect the muscle or tendon, which connects the muscle to the bone. These injuries cause pain, tenderness to the area, inflammation and sometimes bruising. The best course of action initially is to ice the area for 15 minutes every two hours to reduce the inflammation.


Whiplash is a word used to describe the injury to the neck when the head is moved backwards and then forwards very suddenly with great force. It is most common after a car accident (mostly a read end collision) but can also occur from sports injuries, theme park rides, falls or blows to the head. In a whiplash injury the muscles and other soft tissues of the neck are stretched past their usual range of motion, which causes a strain injury. Symptoms usually appear within 24 hours of a whiplash injury and include the feelings of pain and stiffness, headaches, dizziness and possible blurred vision. In extreme injuries you could also experience numbness or weakness in your arms. Treatments for whiplash include over the counter pain medication, ice therapy, stretching exercises and manual therapy such as massage .


The discs in your spine are located between the vertebra at every level in the back, they are your bodies shock absorbers helping to take the strain of activities such as walking, lifting and twisting. A ‘slipped disc’ or herniated disc occurs when the inner part of the disc protrudes through its outer ring and this can occur at any part of the spine including the neck. This can cause pain in the neck as well pain, numbness or tingling along one of the arms if the disc compresses a nerve in the area. These symptoms are usually on one side of the body and increased with certain movements of the head or neck.


Thoracic outlet syndrome develops when blood vessels, nerves or muscles become compressed in the narrow space between the collarbone and first rib. If the space is too narrow it causes pressure on these structures which can lead to pain in the neck, shoulders and arms. It can also cause numbness or tingling in your arms and hands. The cause of thoracic outlet syndrome isn’t always clear but it can be brought on by a car accident, poor posture, repetitive movements such as lifting or sometimes due to structural abnormalities. There are specific tests which can be performed to establish whether you are suffering from thoracic syndrome and treatment usually consists of a combination of pain medication and physical therapy. Occasionally surgery is required to decompress the area.


As you can see there are many reasons that your neck could hurt so if you are experiencing neck pain the first thing you need to do is to establish why. Looking at your posture and sleeping position is usually a good place to start, as these are common problems! Check your workstation… is your computer at eye level and do you have a comfortable supportive chair? Next assess your pillows do you have too many or not enough? And are they keeping your spine in a neutral position while you sleep? If this doesn’t help it may be time to get a professional diagnosis. As Chiropractors we would perform a thorough history and examination of your neck and upper body to determine the cause of your neck pain. Sometimes x-rays are needed to confirm this diagnosis but not always! Once a diagnosis is clear we are able to advise you on the best course of treatment whether that be Chiropractic care or otherwise!

There are ways that you can help yourself at home. Applying ice to the affected area can help to reduce inflammation and decrease pain. We advise using an ice pain for 10-15 minutes every 2-3 hours. Stretching your neck is also a good way to loosen the muscles; a simple stretch (pictured below) is the best way to do this, holding the position for 30 seconds and then repeating on the opposite side. This should be performed twice on either side and done regularly (at least 3-4 times) throughout the day.


If you would like to find out more about what may be causing your neck pain then give us a call on 01202 300320 for our Castle Lane Clinic, or 01425 652951 for our Fordingbridge Clinic, to book an appointment and start feeling better today!


Healthline http://www.healthline.com/symptom/neck-pain
BCA https://chiropractic-uk.co.uk/neck-pain/

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