7 things you need to know about neck pain
Neck pain can be a pain in the neck, luckily it is seldom serious and very often muscular in origin.
- The Vertebrae: There are 7 Cervical Vertebrae (spine bones in the neck)
- The Discs: Between each vertebra is a thin cartilagenous disc. Disc problems in the neck are less common than lower back disc problems. This is because the cervical discs are thinner and the nucleus of the cervical disc is less likely to bulge out, compared to discs in the lower back.
- The Muscles:Most neck pain is from postural tension in the surrounding muscles. The trapezius muscle is a large kite shaped muscle
extending from the base of the skull, down the neck radiating out towards the shoulder blades and run down and attach to the 12th thoracic vertebrae (that is just above the lower back!). The upper portion, us physios call the “upper traps”, tend to often be source of pain in the neck area. The trapezius become overworked and tense (often feeling knotted) by constant overuse- if you find that your shoulders are often up towards your ears this is a sign that they may be overworked. Remember during the day to frequently relax your shoulders downwards, pulling your shoulder blades down and in towards your lower back.
- The Nerves: Between each of the 7 cervical vertebrae are nerve roots which join up to form the nerves that run down your arm all the way to your finger tips. There are 8 cervical nerve roots. Nerves occassionally get irritated as the exit through the narrow gap between the vertebrae in the neck. This can sometimes cause a pain, numbness or tingling radiating down the arm.
- Your posture: Posutre is often the foremost cause of neck pain we deal with- particularly tensed upper trapezius and what we call a
"poking chin posture". Poking chin posture tends to occur when using a computer, as one sits the head starts to lean forwards with the chin poking forwards loading the facet joints of the neck and stressing the soft-tissues in the neck. Over time this posture can also cause some pressure on the nerve roots exiting the spine.
Effective treatments: Treatment always depends on the source of the problem. At BOOST PHYSIO we always analyse what the root cause of the problem is and make sure we treat it. We find that deep tissue and myofascial trigger point treatment, along with Vertebral Mobilisations, stretches and remedial exercises are crucial. We frequently use acupuncture which is very effective.
Warning signs: Numbness, pins and needles or loss of sensation in the arm can be caused by nerve compression. Loss of power in the muscles of your arm or hand can indicate compression of the nerve roots as they exit the spine. Nerve compression can sometimes cause permanent damage to the nerves and must always be assessed carefully. If you suspect this is the case see your physio or your GP who will advise on the appropriate course of action.