Neck pain is the second most common problem we see and responds exceptionally well to osteopathy and massage.
Today’s modern living often entails hours of driving and hunching over workstations, which can play havoc with our necks. Whilst neck pain is less common than low back pain, millions of people experience neck pain and related arm pain at some stage in their lives and therefore seek our help.
It often results from abnormalities in the soft tissues – muscles, ligaments, and nerves, as well as in the bone and the joints of the spine. The most common causes that we identify and treat are soft tissue abnormalities from injury or prolonged wear and tear and in many people it is also the source of pain in the upper back, shoulders and arms.
When neck pain is caused by muscle strain, you may have aches and stiffness that spread to the upper arm and forearm. Shooting pain that spread down the arm into the hand and fingers can be a symptom of a “pinched nerve” or nerve entrapment in the neck. When a nerve is “pinched” in the neck, numbness, weakness and possibly pain of the hands or arms may occur. Disc injuries are the most common cause of nerve entrapments.
Injuries to the neck caused by a sudden movement of the head backwards and forwards or sideways, are referred to as “whiplash”. Whether from a car accident, sporting injury or an accident at work, whiplash or neck injuries warrant a thorough examination.
Whiplash is most commonly suffered as a result of a road traffic accident. An impact or collision causes the head to suddenly jerk back and forth beyond its normal limits.
Wear and Tear
Wear and Tear, Osteoarthritis or Joint Degeneration occurs due to the accumulation of stresses and trauma over time. Throughout life the spine is required to withstand considerable weight bearing strain, purely as a result of the pressures of daily living. The overall effects of degenerative changes of the spine, leads to a feeling of stiffness and reduced spinal mobility. However, just like any other part of the body, the better care that is taken of the spine, the less degeneration is likely to occur. Osteopathic and physiotherapy treatment is usually very effective for the symptoms caused by wear and tear. It is never too late to take proper care of the spine and reduce the effects of aging.
Overuse or Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI)
There is a constant process of breakdown and repair of the soft tissues in the human body. RSI develop when the balance is upset either from increased use and/or impaired healing. RSI is caused by mechanical irritation, which upsets the body’s highly tuned natural balance. It is an inflammation of the fibrous layer that covers soft tissues. Repeated physical movements, such as typing, can cause damage to tendons, nerves muscles and ligaments.
Often problems in the spinal joints of the neck and upper back can aggravate or even cause RSI to develop in the arms and hands. This is because the nerve supply, which control both the tension in the muscles and blood supply of the arm come from the neck.
RSI may present as tightness, discomfort, stiffness or pain in the neck, arms or hands. You may experience tingling, coldness or numbness in the hands. There may also be an associated clumsiness, loss of hand strength and co-ordination.
We all have occasional aches and pains that go away within a few days, especially when we have overdone things. But if your symptoms are progressive, persistent or recurrent call us as soon as possible.
Prolonged sitting can cause muscles that support the spine to weaken and over time this weakness becomes significant. As our muscles fatigue it often results in the upper back being more slumped. A slumped posture causes increased musculo-skeletal stress, which in turn may lead to conditions such as; headaches, neck pain, jaw pain, shoulder pain, numbness or tingling in the arms or hands and pain in the shoulder blades.
Over time a poor sitting posture and incorrect work ergonomics can damage spinal structures and become the cause of recurrent episodes of pain. Osteopaths & Physiotherapists place great emphasis on giving both postural and ergonomic advice as part of the treatment.
Once symptoms have arisen, the problem is usually fully established and a treatment program including postural advice, manual treatment and rehabilitation exercises help to re-establish a flexible, strong and pain-free posture.
Choosing the right pillow
A poor quality pillow can cause disturbed sleep and as sleep is very important to the body’s repair process, compromising the quality of your pillow can also affect your overall health and mental fitness.
It is important that you use a good quality and supportive pillow, which will hold your neck in alignment and which supports your head. (Your head weighs an average of 4 to 6 kilograms.) A good pillow will encourage your head and neck to remain in the correct position when you move around during sleep. In turn, this will relieve muscle tension around the neck, relax the shoulders and correctly position the head, arms, and lower back for relaxed sleep. Your pillow should offer most support to your neck. To achieve this we recommend that you buy an orthopaedic pillow that is suitable for you.
There are both biomechanical and pain relieving benefits for you in using orthopaedic pillows. They are helpful in the treatment of pain by offering support and should be considered an important adjunct to chiropractic care in the treatment of acute and chronic neck complaints regardless of the cause.
They are generally made from foam, some are made from memory foam, and they are shaped. They have a bump or contour that gives you the optimum support for your neck and head.
Regardless of why you think you have pain it is important to deal with it sooner rather than later. The longer you have a problem the harder it is to get rid of it. The early signs of having a problem might only present as a slight stiffness and tiredness in the shoulders. Having pain is not normal even though it is common. Book an assessment to help get a diagnosis and effective treatment programme sooner rather than later.