What is Neck Pain?
Your neck is made up of vertebrae that extend from the skull to the upper torso. Cervical discs absorb shocks between the bones. The bones at the top of your spine, along with your muscles, tissues and ligaments support your head and allow for motion. When one or more of these soft tissues becomes sprained or strained, the inflammation can subsequently cause neck pain or stiffness that requires treatment and physiotherapy.
To have neck pain severe enough to require treatment is more common than most patients realize. We see a lot of neck pain cases at our clinic in Bangkok. Unfortunately neck pain is not always centralized in the neck. It can start in the neck, but can radiate across your whole upper body, affecting your shoulders, arms, chest and even cause headaches. Furthermore, irritation of the spinal cord can also cause pain from the neck down to the legs.
Living with neck pain so severe that it requires physiotherapy and treatment can be miserable, making it hard to focus and get through the day. It can also interfere with daily life, including your ability to sleep, be productive at work, and enjoy leisure time with friends and family. This is why strengthening your shoulders, using good body mechanics, and visiting BPC are great ways to ensure your neck stays strong and flexible and that you avoid the need for any treatment for neck pain.
Common causes of neck pain needing treatment and physiotherapy are:
Causes of Stiff Necks and Neck Pain in Everyday Life:
- Poor posture
- Leaning over your computer for long hours, also known as forward head posture
- Hunching over your workbench
- Excessive smartphone usage either while typing or holding your phone between your ear and shoulder when you talk
- Long drive times
- Bad sleep habits – i.e. sleeping with your neck in a bad position
- Carrying a heavy bag or purse
- Whiplash – when your head is forced to move forward or backward beyond the normal range of motion. This unnatural force of movement causes the neck to tighten and contract, creating muscle fatigue which results in pain and stiffness. This usually occurs from an automobile accident.
- Sports – many contact sports including indoor soccer, basketball, wrestling are also prone to neck injuries, as the sports often involve contact. They can cause your neck to move beyond its natural range of motion. Non contact sports like diving could also cause neck injuries.
- Repetitive motions – turning the head in a repetitive manner, such as side to side while dancing or swimming, may lead to overuse of the neck’s muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
- Cervical Osteoarthritis – just like other joints in your body, your neck joints wear down with age. Osteoarthritis causes the cartilage (cushions) between your vertebrae (bones) to deteriorate. Your body then forms bone spurs that affect joint mobility and cause pain.
- Nerve compression – herniated disks or bone spurs in the vertebrae of your neck can press on the nerves branching out from the spinal cord, causing pain, numbness, and in rare cases, paralysis.
- Smoking – this speeds up the degeneration of the cervical discs in between vertebrae, which are used to absorb shock. When the discs dry out, it results in irritating the nerves and brings about pain that radiates from the neck to the shoulders, arms, hands and fingers.
Types of Neck Pain – BPC can treat them all:
- Stiff neck – soreness and difficulty moving the neck, especially when trying to turn the head from side to side.
- Sharp pain – this pain may be localized to one spot and might feel like it is stabbing or stinging. This type of pain typically occurs in the lower neck.
- General soreness – this discomfort is typically felt in a broader area or region of the neck. It is described as tender or achy, not sharp.
- Radicular pain – this pain can radiate along a nerve from the neck into the shoulder and arm. The intensity can vary and this nerve pain might feel like a burning sensation. This pain can lead to problems with reflexes, sensation, and strength, and may be experienced in the arm due to nerve root compression.
- Headaches – sometimes an irritation in the neck can affect muscles and nerves connected to the head and result in minor to severe headaches.
Range of Symptoms
The duration of neck pain is commonly classified as follows:
- Acute – pain that lasts less than 4 weeks.
- Subacute – pain that lasts 4 to 12 weeks.
- Chronic – pain that lasts 3 or more months.
When neck pain is persistent or keeps occurring over a period of several months, it is typically due to spinal degeneration from wear-and-tear over time (also called cervical spondylosis).
As spinal degeneration progresses, there is an increased risk for a narrowing of the cervical foraminal stenosis or the spinal canal (cervical central stenosis). If the nerve root or spinal cord becomes impinged, pain, tingling, numbness, or weakness may radiate into the arms starting from the neck.