Along with back pain and headaches, neck pain is the most common complaint that walks into the office. Neck pain is very similar to back pain in that every incidence of neck pain is going to be different. There are certain patterns of neck pain that tend to show up with regularity.
Pain described as soreness of a broad area related to the neck and upper shoulders is common. Usually, this is a result of muscular stress and affects entire muscle groups such as the trapezius which originates at the upper neck and connects to multiple places at the shoulders and mid-back. The best case scenario is that the temporary soreness was caused by physical exertion or posture that stressed the muscle. Muscle spasm may be associated with soreness and neck pain as a temporary or intermittent (comes and goes) symptom.
The most common posture change causing this type of pain relates to the position of the head when seated, especially using a computer or watching television for prolonged periods. Any deviation from a normal posture where the head is over the body's center of gravity will stress the muscles. In a short amount of time, the stress can translate to the spine and nerves if there is not already underlying structural deviation of the spine. In this instance, the posture is not totally self-correctable and is due to untreated spinal injury also known as subluxation. The same principle applies to the head and neck when the individual is lying down. Any prolonged position away from neutral is going to have negative effects on the spine, muscles, and nerves.
You can refer to the graphics in the following link to better understand the common and predictable patterns of spinal deviation that can can cause a wide variety of pain symptoms.
Pain that is located in a more specific region of the neck, on one side, or at a particular level of the neck can be related to the spine. There are a variety of spinal conditions that can cause a specific pattern of neck pain. The most common is the misalignment and compensation of segments of the spine that is having a negative effect on the nerves, spinal cord, and possibly the brainstem. This can include facet problems that create a localized pain in a small area just right or left of the midline of the neck. Degeneration, osteoarthritis, or degenerative disc disease is a long term problem that can take place many years before the occurrence of pain related to the neck. Primary causes of spinal injury include childhood falls, sports injuries, head injuries, whiplash, car accidents, and work injuries. The onset of pain and symptoms can be at the time of the event or decades later as in the case of degeneration of untreated spinal injuries.
As neck pain and back pain are so closely related, general principles relating to back pain also apply to neck pain: About that Back Pain
As in the case of many of the broader symptomatic complaints, neck pain can be a sign of a more ominous medical problem. Levels of evidence for concern depend on the individual's health history and the presence of other symptoms or red flags. Chiropractors are trained to identify red flag situations and medical conditions that need referral to other healthcare providers. Even still, the information in this article is not meant to replace or delay you in seeking the input of your physician.
Headaches can accompany, be caused by, and/or be caused by the cause of the neck pain. Headaches that accompany neck pain could occur in a variety of patterns including migraines, tension-style headaches, cluster headaches, etc. The two may be related or unrelated. Headaches caused by the same cause as the neck pain could be labeled cervicogenic meaning that the cause of the headache is in the neck whether that be a tumor, soft-tissue injury, or spine related lesion.
To conclude, neck pain is something that can resolve on its own and pose no major threat to an individual. It can resolve on its own despite an underlying condition that is getting worse. It can get worse and have a seemingly insignificant cause or it can get worse and indicate a very serious need for diagnosis and treatment by health professionals. The most dangerous attitude to have regarding a reoccurring symptom like neck pain is this: maybe it will go away. The second most dangerous attitude is that of continuing to self-treat the problem with over-the-counter medications that will temporarily mask the pain but never correct the cause of the pain.
For these reasons, it is in your best interest to seek the advice of a healthcare professional who can identify the cause of your neck pain. Assessing your health based on how you feel is often a losing strategy. As the good saying goes, "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure."
We are taking the following precautionary measures in our office to ensure our office is an Oasis of Health:
We are open our normal business hours
No more Patient Clip Boards or Signing-In for the next few weeks to minimize cross-contamination (ie people touching less stuff in our office)
Chiropractic Tables Are Cleaned Between Each Patient
Children's toys have been removed from family room
Bathrooms are cleaned 2x/day
Surfaces in the office that are commonly touched areas are cleaned multiple times per hour (door handles, chairs, sink knobs, etc)
Patients that are sick are requested to stay home
Patients who are well are encouraged to make their appointments... chiropractic adjustments decrease stress on your body and increase immune system function
Staff that is Sick will not be allowed in the office