Neck Pain The neck (cervical spine) is composed of vertebrae that begin at the base of the skull and end in the upper torso. These vertebrae and their ligaments provide stability to the spine. The muscles allow for support and movement of the neck. The neck supports the weight of the head, about 14 to 16 lbs. This is a significant load and can cause stress to the neck during movements.
Compared to the rest of the spine, the neck is less protected and more susceptible to injury and disorders that can result in pain and restricted motion. Sometimes neck pain is a temporary condition that goes away on its own. In other cases, professional diagnosis and treatment is necessary to relieve underlying cause and symptoms.
Neck pain may result from injury or prolonged wear and tear to the soft tissues and/or bones and joints of the spine. Infection or tumors may cause neck pain in rare instances. Sometimes, neck problems may be the source of pain in the upper back, shoulders, or arms.
Inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis may cause neck stiffness and pain.
Cervical disc degeneration usually occurs in people aged 40 and older. Discs act as shock absorbers between the bones. Over time, the normal gelatin-like center of the disc can dry out and cause the gap between adjoining vertebrae to narrow. As disc space diminishes, added stress is imposed on the joints of the spine which in turn exacerbates further wear and tear. Sometimes, this can lead to a situation where the cervical disk protrudes (due to weakening of its rim), putting pressure on the spinal cord or nerve roots.
Injury from traffic or diving accidents, contact sports, and falls are the main causes of damage to the neck from trauma. A "rear end" collision may result in hyperextension ( backward motion of the neck beyond normal limits), or hyperflexion, (forward motion of the neck beyond normal limits). The use of seat belts and head restrains in cars can help to prevent or minimize neck injury. The soft tissues such as muscles and ligaments are most commonly involved. Severe injuries such as fracture or dislocation of the neck may lead to damage of the spinal cord and in extreme cases, paralysis.
Whiplash is most frequently associated with car accidents, when the muscles of the neck and shoulders do not have enough time to brace and hold the head during sudden, sharp acceleration or deceleration. Uncomplicated cases result in sprained neck ligaments, which create a natural reaction of muscle spasm to form a protective mechanism for the neck. This may cause stiffness and pain, possibly also down one or both arms if certain areas of the cervical spine are compressed. Relief can be found with chiropractic treatment, acupuncture, massage therapy, rehabilitation, or a combination of these approaches.
In severe cases, whiplash symptoms may last for a month or more with persistent or even constant pain. This may indicate extensive damage such as ruptured discs and/or trapped nerves. It may also predispose the individual to a "slipped", ruptured or herniated disc in the back.
Scientific studies have shown that 91% of patients suffering from chronic whiplash benefited from chiropractic treatment.