Our necks are pretty amazing structures. They have been with us since birth and put up with a lot of physical stresses. Most of these stresses we won’t even think about or notice such as sleeping on strange pillows, playing a contact sport and turning and twisting repeatedly. Over time, these stresses do start to add up. This is one of the ways our neck ages and develops age-related changes (wear and tear) in our lives. The major stresses that our neck must deal with include poor sleeping habits, occupational stresses, sporting stresses, and general life activities.
Our necks can experience acute or chronic pain, unfortunately, there may not be a ‘quick fix’ for chronic neck pain. However at Sydney Spine & Sports Centre (S3C) there is a team of chiropractors and physiotherapists that have the ability to reduce pain and improve the function of your neck.
The neck is called the cervical spine and includes the following structures and soft tissues.
- Blood vessels
- Intervertebral discs
- 7 vertebrae C1-C7
The function of the neck is to support the head, protect the spinal cord, whilst allowing us the mobility to look over our shoulders.
Common causes of neck pain
There are many causes of neck pain, we will consider some common causes here
Degenerative Disc Disease
Degenerative disc disease is the process by which our intervertebral disc and spinal structures degenerate and become ‘worn’ over time. The discs are important shock absorbers, and once they become worn out, other tissues try to help out in the shock absorption role. Unfortunately, the tissues that help with the shock absorption role once the disc’s fail will also become worn out as this is not their typical role. This process can lead to issues such as bone spurs.
Muscles strains are common and can occur from postural loads much as sitting at the office for too long or from acute injuries such as whiplash. They are commonly called pulled muscles, or neck strains.
Pinched nerve (Radiculopathy)
Cervical radiculopathy is the medical term for a pinched nerve, it generally occurs when a bulging or herniated disc crashes into one of the spinal nerves in the neck or a bone spur pinches a nerve in the neck. It will likely cause sensory changes into the arms and sometimes muscle weakness. Neck pain is common.
A herniated disc occurs when disc material protrudes from where it normally lives. This can occur from an acute injury or from a seemingly tiny event such as sneezing after the disc has been worn down by degeneration. Once herniated, this will cause pain in the neck and if the herniated disc material hits a nerve this pain can travel down the arm.
Bone spurs are our body’s way of trying to help out tissues that become worn out. It’s an attempt by the body to make something stronger. When are spinal joints become worn out from repeated stress the body deposits bone to help strengthen the area. This forms bone spurs and unfortunately, these bone spurs can hit nerves or the spinal cord in the neck.