Mechanical Neck Pain
When the joints, muscles or ligaments in the neck do not function normally, a whole host of symptoms may appear.
Commonly neck pain and stiffness are early signs, often associated with headaches in the back of the head, which may refer pain behind the eyes. Most patients think of these as “tension” and something they have to live with. Headaches can be caused by tension in the small muscles at the base of the skull and upper neck. These are called Cervicogenic Headaches and often respond well to chiropractic treatment.
In some cases the joints may trap a nerve in the neck which leads to pain into one arm. Often this will lead to pins and needles or numbness in the hand or fingers. When the neck isn’t working properly, it will put more strain on the muscles around it which often leads to the classic tension and pain across the shoulders, which many of us tend to think of as stress.
Problems with the neck can cause symptoms which initially may not seem related to the neck, indeed sometimes the neck may not hurt at all. Dizziness and migraines are often caused by malfunction of the joints in the neck and their influence on the nervous system.
There are many causes of neck problems, these are some of the commonest:
- Repetitive or static working posture (desk and VDU work, machinists etc)
- Old neck injuries such as falls or car accidents. Often a whiplash injury may not manifest itself until months or even years after the accident
- Bad sleeping posture (too many pillows, or sleeping on your stomach)
Whiplash injuries usually occur after a car accident. The head is jerked backwards and forwards, causing immense strain on the soft tissues of the neck. Often the initial symptoms are only minor, but the weakening of the ligaments and muscles that help support the neck can cause postural changes which may cause symptoms for many years to come.
The typical “bad posture” of the upper back and neck is to sit with the shoulders rounded and moved forwards, the head drops forward and the chin sticks out (“The Chin Poke”).
This is usually because of an imbalance of the muscles that support the head and neck, and very common after whiplash or in patients who sit looking down at work (eg secretaries, typists). Often these patients complain that prolonged sitting causes the head to feel to heavy for their neck. Regular use of Smartphones and Tablets can also result in increased strain on the neck.
Spondylosis or spondylitis is occasionally found on X-rays. This is often termed osteo-arthritis and is usually not as bad as it sounds. It is a degenerative process in the joints which cause them to wear, and occurs in most people as we get older. It is rarely the wear and tear that causes the pain, rather it is the stiffness and muscle tightness which can respond well to chiropractic treatment.