You move your neck endlessly throughout the day, as you cook food, send texts or drive. Daily life puts quite a bit of stress on the neck. For example, when you tilt your head down to check your phone, your neck is subject to so much extra force that it’s as if your 5kg head weighed a whopping 22kg. No wonder we get neck pain!
Inside Your Neck
Your neck has a vital job, connecting your head to the rest of your body, housing the arteries that supply your brain with blood, and protecting the nerves that carry information from your brain to the rest of your body.
Perhaps its most obvious job is holding your head up. That alone is quite a tough gig, given how big your head is compared to your neck. All that weight is balanced on 7 small vertebrae.
Your spine is made up of 24 vertebrae, a bit like hollow bony building blocks stacked on top of one another to protect your spinal cord, which runs through the middle. The smallest 7 of these blocks are in your neck, known as the cervical vertebrae. Cervical is an old Latin word meaning ‘relating to the neck’. Nowadays, we usually use the word in relation to the neck of the womb but it can refer to your actual neck too.
There are shock-absorbing discs between each vertebrae. Vertebral ligaments protect and stabilise your vertebrae while various muscles hold your head up and allow movement. Nerves, many of which stretch into your arms and shoulders, send messages from your brain to your body.
So, your neck is a complex structure, supporting a great load and subject to constant strain.
What Causes Neck Pain?
Common causes of neck pain include:
- Muscle strain due to poor posture (e.g. staring down into a screen), a bad pillow or tension due to stress
- A slipped, bulging or herniated disc that’s pressing on a nerve
- Whiplash, where your head is thrown backwards and forwards, for example, in a car crash, which sprains your neck muscles and ligaments
- Arthritis (cervical spondylosis), usually due to ageing.
Symptoms of Neck Pain
Your symptoms may vary depending on the underlying cause of your neck pain. People commonly report feeling a stiff neck or pain in the neck, shoulders or upper chest.
In more serious cases, you might have weak or numb arms and legs, walking problems or incontinence.
Caring for Neck Pain at Home
Many cases of neck pain improve without professional help. To treat neck pain at home, you can:
- Apply a heat or ice pack to the area
- Gently massage the sore area
- Use pain-relieving creams or medication
- Try some relaxation exercises to relieve muscle tension
Those techniques all help to treat the symptoms. You then need to work out the cause and change that, if you can. Think about your posture, your pillow and any pressure you’re under. For example, if your neck always hurts after a day working on your computer, you may need to change your screen height. You could also try lifting your phone to eye level rather than bending your neck.
Who Can I See for Neck Pain?
An osteopath can help relieve your neck pain. Osteopathy can help release tight muscles, helping your body move easily and function properly again. Osteopathy uses treatments such as stretches, myofascial release, joint mobilisation and articulation to release any restrictions in your body.
We’d love you to come and see us at Relinque Sports and Spinal Group. We’ve been treating all forms of neck pain for more than 20 years.
By far the most common cause of neck pain is a strain or sprain but we never assume. We examine you carefully and listen to you attentively. We’ll spend time discussing your symptoms and medical history to reach a diagnosis and decide on a course of treatment.
Give us a call today on 03 9499 9644 or book an appointment online.