Acute & Chronic Neck Pain
The neck—or cervical spine—is a coordinated network of nerves, bones, joints, and muscles directed by the brain and the spinal cord. It is designed for strength, stability, and nerve communication.
Most episodes of acute neck pain are due to a muscle strain or other soft tissue sprain (ligaments, tendons). But when neck pain becomes subacute or chronic, then it’s likely that some form of medical treatment or guidance is needed to alleviate the pain. Depending on the cause, there may be more effective treatments for certain conditions.
- Sudden Force
- Sleeping in the wrong position
- Carrying heavy bags
- Sports injury
- Road traffic accident
- Cervical degenerative disc disease.
- Cervical herniated disc
- Cervical osteoarthritis
- Cervical spinal stenosis with myelopathy
- Cervical foraminal stenosis
Neck pain can feel like any of the following:
- Stiff neck that makes turning the head difficult
- Sharp or stabbing pain in one spot
- Soreness or tenderness in a general area
- Pain that radiates down into the shoulders, arms, or fingers; or radiates up into the head
- Tingling, numbness, or weakness that radiates into the shoulder, arms, or fingers
- ouble with gripping or lifting objects
- Problems with walking, balance, or coordination
Cervical Strain / Sprain
Cervical sprains and strains are common injuries of the neck, resulting in pain, stiffness, muscle spasm or weakness. A cervical sprain is an injury to the ligaments in the neck.
Cervical strains are injuries to the muscles in the neck. Both injuries are caused by stretching or tearing of soft tissue.
A common cause of cervical sprains and strains is whiplash, which typically occurs during motor vehicle accidents. In this type of injury, the head moves back and forth in a very sudden movement (acceleration-deceleration), injuring ligaments or muscles of the neck by stretching them beyond their normal limits. Cervical sprains and strains can also occur from a fall, contact sports, improper lifting, poor posture while sitting at a desk, using a computer, working on a project, driving, or similar activities.
Signs & Symptoms
The primary symptom of cervical sprains and strains is pain that begins immediately after an injury, a number of hours following an injury, or over time following prolonged overuse or misuse of the muscles in the neck and upper back. The pain is usually worse when engaged in activity and improves at rest. Some individuals may develop chronic pain resulting from a cervical sprain or strain. There may be swelling and inflammation, stiffness, and limited range of motion in addition to pain.
Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
Thoracic outlet syndrome is a group of disorders that occur when blood vessels or nerves in the space between your collarbone and your first rib (thoracic outlet) are compressed. This can cause pain in your shoulders and neck and numbness in your fingers.
- Anatomical defects; Inherited defects that are present at birth (congenital) may include an extra rib located above the first rib (cervical rib) or an abnormally tight fibrous band connecting your spine to your rib.
- Poor posture; drooping your shoulders or holding your head in a forward position can cause compression in the thoracic outlet area.
- Trauma; A traumatic event, such as a car accident, can cause internal changes that then compress the nerves in the thoracic outlet. The onset of symptoms related to a traumatic accident often is delayed.
- Repetitive activity; Doing the same thing repeatedly can, over time, wear on your body's tissue. You may notice symptoms of thoracic outlet syndrome if your job requires you to repeat a movement continuously, such as typing on a computer, working on an assembly line or lifting things above your head, as you would if you were stocking shelves. Athletes, such as baseball pitchers and swimmers, also can develop thoracic outlet syndrome from years of repetitive movements.
- Pressure on your joints; Obesity can put an undue amount of stress on your joints, as can carrying around an oversized bag or backpack.
- Pregnancy; because joint mobility increases during pregnancy, signs of thoracic outlet syndrome may first appear while you're pregnant.
- Muscle wasting in the fleshy base of your thumb (Gilliatt-Sumner hand)
- Numbness or tingling in your arm or fingers
- Pain or aches in your neck, shoulder or hand
- Weakening grip
Upper Crossed Posture
Upper Crossed Syndrome (UCS) is described as a muscle imbalance pattern located at the head and shoulder regions. It is most often found in individuals who work at a desk or who sit for a majority of the day and continuously exhibit poor posture.
In UCS, tightness of the upper trapezius and levator scapula crosses with tightness of the pectoralis major and minor. Weakness of the deep cervical flexors crosses with weakness of the middle and lower trapezius. This pattern of imbalance creates joint dysfunction.
What does all this mean?
Basically, it means that when 4-5 muscle groups get too tight it can lead to a chain of events that can create shoulder instability, dysfunction and eventually pain and injury. The culprits are the trapezius and levator scapula (which help raise and lower the shoulder blades), the pectoralis major and minor (in your chest), and the sternocleidomastoid (the bulging muscles along the side of your neck).
Signs & Symptoms
- Forward head posture – Picture the little old lady crossing the street who can’t see where she’s going because her head is jutting forward of her shoulders so she can only look to the ground in front of her and not up or ahead.
- Increased cervical lordosis and thoracic kyphosis – The hunchback. Think about how your shoulders must compensate in the overhead position if you have an even the beginnings of a hunchback.
- Elevated and protracted shoulders – this is when your pecs are so tight and your sub-scapular muscles (the ones between and below your shoulder blades) are too weak to hold your shoulders back so they round forward instead.
- Rotation or abduction and winging of the scapula – Abduction means the (scapula) bone is moving away from the body which gives it a ‘wing’ looking effect when looking at it from the side or rear views. If someone can slide their fingers under your shoulder blade and grab on to it, your scapulae are winging.