We’ve all felt it: that tightening at the back of our necks that radiate down into our shoulders and up to the base of our skulls. While all neck pain is uncomfortable, it’s not all the same because there are a variety of reasons it develops. Determining the cause will determine the treatment.
Strained muscles are the most common reason for neck pain. The strain can come from too much or sustained physical activity, such as lifting weights, playing tennis, or a weekend of DIY home painting. It can also be cause by emotional stress. As tension builds, many people tend hunch their shoulders. Good posture isn’t just aesthetically pleasing; it helps keep the body in proper alignment. The opposite is also true: bad posture leads to improper alignment, muscle strain and body pain.
Sitting hunched over an office desk, or kitchen counter, or steering wheel while driving home puts undue pressure on your back and neck muscles and can lead to chronic pain. Just like any other joint, neck joints can go back and are susceptible to osteoarthritis—a pain in the neck you definitely want to avoid.
The neck is actually the upper part of the spine so it is comprised of vertebrae; meaning is it is subject to a variety of conditions such as disc compression, serve issues, and herniated disks. As anyone who has ever been in a fender-bender knows, necks are especially vulnerable to whiplash, a condition that occurs when the head snaps forward violently, damaging the soft tissue and usually straining the muscles.
Neck pain, however, can also be a symptom of something more serious than muscle strain; it can also be an underlying symptom of a number of illnesses such as meningitis and even some cancers. That’s why lingering neck pain should never be taken lightly and should always be checked out by a health care professional.
Also, if you experience a stinging pain radiating down your arm or into your shoulder accompanied by numbness in your hands, you should also get that checked out at once.
If your neck pain is caused by simple stress, sometimes a simple relaxing warm bath or dip in the Jacuzzi is enough to cure the problem. Chronic neck pain caused by an underlying condition or repeated activity may not be so simply curable but there are treatments that can be prescribed, such as therapeutic massage.
As with many chiropractic issues, the best treatment is prevention; stretching, attention to posture, relaxation exercises, can all go a long way to keep your neck healthy and pain free.