The neck (cervical spine) is composed of vertebrae which begin in the upper torso and end at the base of the skull. The bony vertebrae along with the ligaments (like thick rubber bands) provide stability to the spine. The muscles allow for support and motion. The neck has a significant amount of motion and supports the weight of the head. However, because it is less protected than the rest of the spine, the neck can be vulnerable to injury and disorders that produce pain and restrict motion. For many people, neck pain is a temporary condition that disappears with time. Others need medical diagnosis and treatment to relieve their symptoms.
Injury and Accidents: A sudden forced movement of the head or neck in any direction and the resulting ‘rebound’ of the head or neck in the opposite direction is known as whiplash. The sudden ‘whipping’ motion causes injury to the surrounding and supporting tissues of the neck and head. Muscles react by tightening and contracting, creating muscle fatigue that results in pain and stiffness. Severe whiplash can also be associated with injury to the intervertebral joints, discs, ligaments, muscles, and nerve roots. Car accidents are the most common cause of whiplash.
Often people in car accidents do not realize that they had any injury occur. That is why it is important to get in to see your chiropractor or medical doctor after an accident to have your neck and head examined. If there is a problem, your doctor can help you get the care you need so that it doesn’t develop into a major injury from a minor accident.
Growing Older: Degenerative disorders such as osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis, and degenerative disc disease directly affect the spine. Osteoarthritis is a common joint disorder that causes progressive deterioration of cartilage.
The body reacts by forming bone spurs that impact joint motion. Spinal stenosis causes the small nerve passageways in the vertebrae to narrow, which compresses and traps nerve roots. Stenosis may cause neck, shoulder, and arm pain and numbness when these nerves are unable to function normally. Degenerative disc disease (DDD) can cause the intervertebral discs to become less hydrated, resulting in decreased disc elasticity and height. Over time, a disc may bulge or herniate, causing pain that runs into the arm, tingling, and numbness.
Daily Life: Poor posture, obesity, and weak abdominal muscles often disrupt the spine’ balance, causing the neck to bend forward to compensate. Stress and emotional tension can cause muscles to tighten and contract, resulting in pain and stiffness.