Your neck is an area of the spine that is unique in its potential range of movement. It provides the support necessary for us to keep our eyes leveled in most positions which is very important for our sense of balance and stability as we perform tasks and engage in activities throughout the day.
While a strong and stable neck offers us a big range of movement, when unfavorable positions are held for extended periods of time for example when we drive a car or sit in front of a computer, we become vulnerable to problems like muscle strains and ligament sprains. Neck pain is common and can be highly irritating and disruptive.
Not being able to keep the head on top of our shoulders is one of the biggest contributors to sprain and strain in the muscles and tendons of the posterior neck. Especially recently with the introduction of screens and smartphones where we find ourselves sitting hunched over for hours on the couch or in bed. The static holding of one position for long periods of time is very hard for the muscles to cope with and they tend to get inflamed and irritated which causes pain.
Quick tip: Watch this mobility evaluation video to see if you still have full range of motion in your neck.
Finding a neutral sleeping position can be very important especially if you have a sensitive neck. Generally speaking, sleeping on the belly is a bad idea. As we grow older and our range of motion decreases it will start to put a lot of stress on the joint cartilage and ligaments of the cervical spine.
Quick tip: Try to find a relaxed position on the side, hugging a big pillow or sleeping on the back with some pillows under the knees is the best alternative.
Nerves can get trapped both at the level of the spine (herniated disc, foraminal compression) and as it passes under muscles or ligament structures on its way down the arm and hand (TOS syndrome, carpal tunnel). There are ways to evaluate what the cause of the trapped nerve is so that you can get the most appropriate treatment.
Quick tip: Nerve pain can be very sharp and scary but can often be treated non surgically with spinal manipulation and rehab exercises with great results. To get started with your neck rehab click here.
The most common injury to the neck is the whiplash injury that comes mainly from being hit from behind in the car but can also come from hard falls. The forces of the impact create a whip-like motion of the neck which causes strain in the musculature and often also over stretches the ligaments and joint capsule. This can cause herniation of discs, inflammation in the facet joints and more.
Quick tip: Don't give up, neck pain can be tricky but if you work long term with an osteopath with a solid rehab plan you can get very good results both with range of motion and pain.
Osteoarthritis in the neck is the result of the wearing down of the cartilage in the cervical facet joint. Cervical osteoarthritis is one of the most common causes of chronic neck pain.
Quick tip: While there is no way to help cure the damage done to the cartilage itself, there are things you can do to relieve the symptoms and pain caused by the surrounding muscles and ligaments. Physical treatment such as Osteopathy as well as introducing a fitness routine such as Pilates that addresses the individual’s specific limitations and needs has been proven to have tremendously positive effects in relieving chronic pain associated with Arthritis.
To learn more about the effectiveness of Pilates in the rehabilitation of chronic neck pain click here.