Neck Pain and It’s Causes
The thing about neck pain, is that it affects you all the time, because of course you have to always move your head about about as you need to see where you are going. It really can affect your everyday life.
How Heavy Is Your Head?
It isn’t surprising that neck pain is a common condition that I see as an osteopath, because the average adult head weighs approximately 5 kg.
Imagine carrying 5 kg around in a shopping bag all day, and think how much the muscles in your arms would ache.
This means that over the course of your life the neck can be under a lot of strain at times, and this can lead to pain and stiffness. As we get older it can also lead to changes in the vertebra of the neck due to wear and tear (arthritis).
A Little Bit Of Anatomy (just a little)
VERTEBRAE: The neck is called the ‘cervical spine’ and this section of the spine has 7 vertebrae in it (the bony blocks of bone which make up the spine).
At the top end it supports the head (at the occipito-atlantal joint), and at the bottom end it joins where your rib cage starts (the thorax).
DISCS: In between each of the 7 vertebra is a ‘vertebral disc’ which is a jelly like cushion to help absorb the forces through the spine as you move about.
NERVES: Coming out between each of the vertebra on both the left and right, is a nerve which then travels down into your arm and hand on that side.
JOINTS: There are joints in the neck where the cervical vertebra articulate with each other called the ‘cervical facet joints’.
MUSCLES AND LIGAMENTS: The muscles help support the neck and are responsible for holding the neck and shoulders in position, and moving the head about. The ligaments help give support to the neck.
Common Symptoms Of Neck Pain
Neck pain can present in different ways, and a detailed case history and examination is vital to work out the cause of your problem.
Symptoms people often describe are:
- Sharp neck pain on movement
- Sharp neck pain with arm pain, and/ or with pins and needles or numbness into the arm or hand
- Constant ache in the neck and across the shoulder
- Constant shoulder ache and low neck ache
- Headaches and neck pain
What Can Go Wrong In The Neck?
The symptoms above can be caused by a variety of issues including the following:
- Joint strains or joint locking
- Muscle and ligament damage from trauma e.g. heading a football
- Neck arthritis (osteoarthritis) from wear and tear
- Prolapsed disc
- Degenerative Disc Disease
- Vertebral fracture after a trauma
- Muscle spasm
- Trapped nerve
- Extra cervical rib
- First rib irritation (at the base of the neck)
Do I Have A Trapped Nerve In My Neck?
If you have symptoms spreading down into your arm such as pain, pins and needles, numbness or weakness, then it is possible that you have a trapped nerve. Neurological testing should be carried out in this instance.
Causes of trapped nerves:
- Prolapsed discs (sometimes know as a slipped disc, or herniated disc).
- Narrowing of the space where the nerve comes out of the spine (cervical foraminal stenosis). This is often caused by arthritis, or wear and tear in the neck leading to ‘osteophyte’ formation. This is bony outgrowth forms bony ‘spurs’ which push on the nerves.
Why Do I Ask So Many Questions?
When diagnosing causes of neck pain in people who come to see me as an osteopath, I ask a lot about past history, as well as the current problem and what makes it worse or better.
A detailed examination then follows, with neurological screening if symptoms are spreading into the arms or legs.
I also ask lots of screening questions about your general health. This is because pain in the neck can sometimes because by an underlying issue with an organ, and I need to make sure your problem is something I can help with, and if not refer you on to your GP.
What Else Can Cause Neck Pain?
Other causes of neck pain include:
Heart issues such as angina or myocardial infarction, cervical artery dissection, tumours, infection in the bone (osteomyelitis), meningitis, rheumatoid arthritis, spinal cord issues such as syringomyelia (where cavities form within the cervical spinal cord), or cervical myelopathy (narrowing of the spinal canal which can cause spinal cord compression).
Thank You For Reading My Blog
I hope you have enjoyed this blog. If you know someone who may benefit from it, please do pass it on.
I have written it as I am a registered osteopath helping people in Hove and Brighton and surrounding areas, and love to share my passion and fascination for the human body and how it works.
I have helped lots of people with neck pain over the years with osteopathy.
If you would like to know whether osteopathy can help you with your pain or mobility problems, please do contact me for a no obligation chat either via email at [email protected] or call me on 01273 803711.