Understanding Neck Pain
Your cervical spine, or neck, is built up of seven bones accumulated on top of each other with a shock-absorbing disc between each level. Your neck is moderately flexible so it relies on muscles and ligaments for aid. "Sprains" and "strains" are the outcome of these tissues remaining stretched for too long or too hard, much like a rope that frays when it is extended beyond its natural capacity. The term, "sprain" indicates that the tough, durable ligaments that hold your bones together have been damaged, while "strain" means that your muscles or tendons that move your neck have been partially torn.
Auto accidents and sports injuries are the principal cause of neck sprains and strains. Other less traumatic activities like reaching, pushing, pulling, moving heavy objects and falls can likewise create these difficulties. Most often, sprains and strains are not the results of any individual event but rather from repeated overloading. Tendons and ligaments ordinarily endure small isolated stressors considerably well, but constant challenges lead to injury in much the same way that regularly bending a section of copper wire will cause it to break. Forms of these less acute types of cervical sprain/strain injuries include bad posture, poor workstations, repetitive movements, prolonged overhead activity, sedentary lifestyles, improper sleep positions, poor bra support and obesity.
Symptoms from a sprain/strain may begin suddenly but more often they will form over time. Complaints often include dull neck pain that becomes sharper when you move your head. Rest may relieve your symptoms but often leads to stiffness. The pain is generally centred in the back of your neck but can spread to your shoulders or among your shoulder blades. Tension headaches generally accompany neck injuries. Be sure to tell your doctor if you have any signs of a more severe injury, including an intense or "different" headache, loss of consciousness, confusion or "fogginess", difficulty concentrating, dizziness, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, change in vision, nausea or vomiting, numbness or tingling in your arms or face, weakness or clumsiness in your arms and hands, decreased bowel or bladder control or fever.
Sprain/strain injuries cause your normal healthy elastic tissue to be replaced with less elastic "scar tissue". This process can lead to ongoing pain and even arthritis. Seeking early and appropriate treatment, like the type provided in our office, is critical. Depending upon the severity of your injury, you may need to limit your activity for a while- particularly movements or activities that cause pain. Avoid difficult lifting and take regular breaks from extended activity, especially overhead activity. Following acute injuries, you can use ice for 10-15 minutes every hour. Heat may be necessary after several days or for more chronic types of pain. Ask your doctor for particular ice/heat recommendations. Some patients report partial relief from sports-creams.