What is neck pain?
The neck or cervical spine
- Your neck is composed of 7 vertebrae that begin in the upper torso and end at the base of the skull.
- The bony vertebrae along with the ligaments (which are comparable to thick rubber bands) and muscles provide stability to the spine. The muscles allow for support and motion.
- Your neck has a significant amount of motion and supports the weight of the head. Because it is less protected than the rest of the spine, the neck can be vulnerable to injury causing pain and restricted motion.
- Mostly, neck pain is a temporary condition that goes away with time. Some may need specialist diagnosis and treatment to relieve their symptoms.
Mechanical Neck Pain
- The very nature of this type of pain presentation means this problem has occurred from some kind of altered or abnormal strain affecting the neck structures.
- This also gives us the opportunity to correct these abnormal mechanics through changing postures, exercises and if necessary some manual treatment.
- Mechanical neck pain happens when surrounding structures including the ligaments, discs, muscles are strained beyond their normal limit, either through long-standing poor postures or through sudden injury.
A classical experiment as shown by Robin McKenzie could help understand mechanical pain as explained below.
- Try bending your Index finger backwards to a point it causes a discomfort.
- If you hold this position for a little longer it may start to hurt.In some cases the pain caused by over stretching may take more than an hour to appear.
- If the same finger is stretched beyond the point of strain you feel immediate pain. You have now overstretched but not necessarily damaged any tissue.
- If you have failed this pain warning and proceed to stretch the finger on further in the same direction the soft tissues may then tear. This tear will reduce when you take out this mechanical stress but a background ache would most be still present.
- Every time you move this finger in this wrong direction, it will be painful to move and will not cease until some healing can occur which may take some days.
- The finger example is no different to your neck pain.
The Bulging Discs
- When the "fail-safe" mechanism provided by the ligaments fail the discs lose their effectiveness to absorb shock and their outer wall becomes weaker.
- This may cause the inside of the disc to bulge and irritate the spinal nerves which can cause the pain or tingling / pins and needles or numbness to be felt in the arms, forearms, hands or fingers.
Common Pain Presentation
- This may greatly vary from person to person.
- Initially pain may usually be felt at or near the base of the neck, in the centre.
- It may just to be one side of the neck.
- On subsequent attacks pain may reach across both shoulders.
- To the top of one shoulder or the shoulder blade.
- In some cases symptoms may be felt in the outside or back of the upper arm as far as the elbow.
- It may extend below the elbow to the wrist or hand, and pins and needles or numbness may be felt in the fingers.
Please refer to PDF files and attached documents for information on exercises and self management programs to help your pain.