Your neck houses your cervical spine and more than 20 muscles, all of which support the full weight of your head throughout its wide range of potential motion. And because your cervical spine is flexible enough to move your head in several directions, it’s highly susceptible to dysfunction, pain, and injury.
Your neck muscles are also susceptible to the same issues because they’re active for hours on end each day. If you suffer from neck pain, acute or chronic, that discomfort could stem from one or more common potential causes. And because chiropractors are trained to address dysfunction, misalignment, and pain throughout all segments of the spine, chiropractic care can improve your symptoms significantly.
Below, the experts at Bomberg Chiropractic share some of the most common causes of neck pain and how chiropractic care can help.
1. Accidents and Injuries
Sudden, forceful movements can cause the neck to lurch in one direction and immediately rebound in the opposite direction. This highly common occurrence is known as whiplash, and it can happen in a wide variety of situations, including auto accidents and competitive sports.
Whiplash can cause intense neck pain because it forcefully and suddenly overstresses the muscles in the neck, causing them to contract and tighten. If you’ve suffered whiplash, you may not know it right away, as discomfort can take days to become noticeable.
When the neck muscles remain contracted over a sustained period, they become fatigued, resulting in pain, stiffness, and reduced mobility. Severe whiplash can even result in injury to the spinal discs, intervertebral joints, nerve roots, muscles, and ligaments in the neck.
Think you may have suffered whiplash during an auto collision? If so, you must get an evaluation and treatment as promptly as possible. Check out Why Choose Chiropractic Care After an Accident? for more information.
2. Text Neck
With the rise of the smartphone and social media came a new spinal condition known as text neck. This source of neck pain stems from looking downward, probably at a cell phone, for prolonged periods, which can overstretch tissues in the neck.
While text neck is not an actual medical diagnosis, it is most certainly a real phenomenon. If you have it, your doctor or chiropractor will likely diagnose you with a repetitive stress injury or overuse syndrome.
3. Poor Posture
Neck pain can also develop from other forms of poor posture aside from text neck, such as sustained hunching of your upper body. Failing to hold your head in an upright position directly over your neck — known as forward head posture — can also result in chronic neck pain.
Researchers have calculated that for every inch you hyperextend your neck forward, you place an additional 10 pounds of stress on the joints, discs, and soft tissues in your neck. So if your head weighs around 11 pounds (that’s pretty average for humans), it should, in theory, put about 11 pounds of stress on your cervical spine and neck muscles. But that’s not how it’ll play out if you practice poor neck posture.
If you extend your neck just a couple of inches forward, you’ll force your head to uphold an additional 20 pounds of pressure. That means your head will end up exerting 30 to 40 pounds of pressure on your neck, and your neck isn’t designed to hold that much weight for long.
If you practice forward head posture all day — whether or not you’re aware you’re doing it — you're bound to develop neck pain at some point.
4. Muscle Strain
Muscle strain is a highly common cause of neck pain characterized by neck stiffness and poor mobility. Strain can occur as a result of a wide variety of activities, including:
● Side sleeping while clutching a pillow tightly
● Sleeping on your stomach with the arms stretched out in front of you
● Sleeping with a pillow that doesn’t adequately support the neck
● Working at a computer for prolonged periods
● Holding a phone between the ear and shoulder for prolonged periods
● Heavy lifting
● Accidental falls
● Repetitive motions that affect the neck
While there are many causes of neck strain, sometimes, the exact cause of a person’s strain is unknown. Even if the cause of neck strain is unknown, a chiropractor can successfully diagnose the condition and deliver the appropriate treatment(s) to reduce inflammation and pain and restore mobility.
Over time, the cartilage in between a person’s joints can start to deteriorate. This progressive, degenerative condition is known as osteoarthritis, and the body often responds to it by creating bone spurs that negatively impact joint mobility.
Bone spurs can cause significant pain with neck movement because they can place pressure on the nerves that stem from the cervical spine. They can also rub against other bones in the neck or put pressure on soft tissues, which will inevitably cause pain.
Even if your body doesn’t form bone spurs in response to osteoarthritis, deteriorating cartilage can cause considerable discomfort. Every joint needs adequate cartilage for cushioning and shock absorption, as well as to facilitate smooth movement throughout its range of motion.
6. Rheumatoid Arthritis
According to researchers, the cervical spine is one of the most common sites where people experience rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an autoimmune condition that attacks facet joints in the neck. It’s also the third-most-common site where RA lesions develop. This condition can occur alongside osteoarthritis or in conjunction with it, but either way, it’ll cause discomfort and stiffness when you attempt to move your cervical spine.
Discomfort typically occurs in the morning and can last for a few hours or even an entire day. In many cases, pain worsens with changes in barometric pressure. While RA typically affects smaller peripheral joints first, it can affect the neck as the condition progresses.
If you know you have RA, it could very well be the culprit behind your chronic neck pain, especially if your pain is most prevalent upon waking.
7. Degenerative Disc Disease
Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD) is a condition that causes the intervertebral discs to deteriorate slowly. As the discs wear down, they can bulge or even herniate, which places excessive pressure on the nerves that run through and branch away from the cervical spine.
When a bulging or herniated disc pushes on the cervical nerves, it can cause moderate to severe neck pain that’s often accompanied by one or more of the following symptoms:
● Tingling that extends to the shoulder, arm, or hand (check out common causes of tingling a chiropractor can address)
● Numbness in the arm or hand
● Pain that extends from the neck into the shoulder, arm, or hand
Though a chiropractor can help alleviate pain and poor mobility associated with degenerative disc disease, the condition itself has no known cure. Chiropractic care is a gentle, non-invasive treatment option for managing the ongoing complications that can result from the condition.
Do you have herniated discs that cause pain anywhere along your spine? If so, here’s how a chiropractor can help you.
5 Ways a Chiropractor Treats Neck Pain
When you visit a chiropractor to address your neck pain, your practitioner may use a variety of treatments to reduce inflammation and pain, alleviate muscle tension, and restore mobility. Some of the most common chiropractic treatments for neck pain include:
1. Chiropractic Adjustment
Adjusting the cervical vertebrae helps realign the spine to its proper position. This helps alleviate pressure on the nerves in the neck and restore healthy cervical posture.
2. TENS Therapy
Low-frequency electrical stimulation overrides pain signals from the muscles and nerves to the brain. It also stimulates injured or strained neck muscles, which helps expedite the healing process.
3. Movement-Based Massage
Movement-based massage effectively addresses painful muscle adhesions, scar tissue, and trigger points in the neck.
4. Instrument-Assisted Soft Tissue Therapy
Using special instruments, a chiropractor may perform soft tissue mobilization to treat muscle tension and poor mobility in the neck. Graston therapy can be especially effective for pain caused by soft tissue issues in the neck. It can also be useful for patients suffering from cervicogenic headaches (aka headaches that stem from pain in the neck).
5. Therapeutic Exercises
Along with standard chiropractic treatments, a chiropractor typically sends neck pain patients home with a series of therapeutic exercises they must practice regularly. These exercises are designed to reduce pain and restore mobility with daily practice.
Looking for Neck Pain Treatment Near Plymouth, MN?
If you suffer from neck or back pain, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team at Bomberg Chiropractic. We specialize in a wide variety of treatments designed to relieve pain and restore mobility and serve residents in Plymouth and the surrounding Twin Cities areas.
While we’re not in network with a huge list of insurance providers, we do offer affordable pricing, affordable treatment packages, and payment plans to make treatment accessible for virtually any budget.
To schedule an appointment or learn more about how we can help you, please call our Plymouth, MN office today at 763-450-1755 or send us a message, and we’ll be in touch.