Back & Neck Pain

 
Neck pain is one of the most common forms of pain for which people seek treatment. Most individuals experience neck pain at some point during their lives for a variety of reasons. Data shows that women are slightly more prone to neck pain than men.

Neck Pain Illustration The causes of neck pain are many, but are generally divided into acute causes such as injury or chronic neck pain lasting more than three months. When the condition is acute, it is normally caused by injury such as whiplash or a muscle strain from sleeping awkwardly.

Acute neck pain is characterized by sudden pain that lasts less than three months. Neck pain moves into the chronic category if it persists more than three months no matter the genesis.

 
Why is the Neck Susceptible to Injury?

The neck is one of the most complex and important structures in the human body. An understanding of the unique anatomy and complex physiology of the neck are critical in providing a sound diagnosis of neck pain. The bony structures of the neck are specifically created and positioned for the individual vertebrae to provide mobility and support. The combination of flexibility and support makes the neck unique, but susceptible to injury.

Located between each vertebra are discs that function like shock absorbers in an effort to mitigate trauma and impact to the spine. Because these discs are made up of soft, spongy material they have a tendency to herniate (squeeze out backwards) and cause inflammation and irritation to surrounding nerves or the spinal cord itself.

Degenerative disc disease is a common cause of neck pain and may be a result of an acute, sudden injury or trauma to the spine or a result of disc thinning and dehydration over time. Unless a disc herniates and pinches on a nerve root, most of the time the issue is treated nonoperatively.

Whiplash often injures the muscles and ligaments of the neck. Attached to each vertebra are ligaments that allow the spine to remain mobile yet strong. There are also several muscles within the environment responsible for spinal movement. Nerves are attached to the cervical spinal cord that exit out from the spine into the skin, muscles and areas of the upper back and neck. During strenuous activities muscles and ligaments can become strained/sprained. These types of injuries account for the majority of neck pain.

The cervical spine consists of seven vertebrae along with the surrounding muscles, joints and ligaments. All of these structures are designed to give the neck and spine functionality and protection. The cervical spine is the most flexible portion of the spine because it is responsible for head and neck movement. Because of the area’s flexibility, it is susceptible to injuries such as whiplash.

 

What are the Most Common Causes of Neck Pain?

Continuous overuse and falling asleep in awkward positions are common reasons for neck strains. When the neck muscles in the back of the neck are strained too often, acute or chronic pain can develop.

Neck pain is experienced for a wide variety of reasons, but the main culprits are typically:

  • Muscle strains due to overuse, misuse or injury
  • Ligament sprains due to trauma
  • Trauma or acute injury (example, motor vehicle accident, strain from heavy lifting)
  • Stress
  • Herniated cervical disc (disc that squeezes out backwards)
  • Neck arthritis that flares up
  • Whiplash injury
  •  
    Whiplash often injures the muscles and ligaments of the neck. Attached to each vertebra are ligaments that allow the spine to remain mobile yet strong. There are also several muscles within the environment responsible for spinal movement. Nerves are attached to the cervical spinal cord that exit out from the spine into the skin, muscles and areas of the upper back and neck. During strenuous activities muscles and ligaments can become strained/sprained. These types of injuries account for the majority of neck pain.

    The cervical spine consists of seven vertebrae along with the surrounding muscles, joints and ligaments. All of these structures are designed to give the neck and spine functionality and protection. The cervical spine is the most flexible portion of the spine because it is responsible for head and neck movement. Because of the area’s flexibility, it is susceptible to injuries such as whiplash.

     

    Spinal Stenosis

    Spinal stenosis occurs when the spinal canal narrows, which leads to the nerves being compressed. The compression can cause various symptoms including shooting pain, numbness, tingling and cramping in the neck, back, legs and arms.

    So if an individual has a combination of spinal arthritis and stenosis in the neck, which is very common, the end result may be significant neck pain along with shoulder aching and arm pain as well.

     

    Neck Arthritis

    After soft tissue inflammation and spasms, arthritis of the neck is the most common disease of the cervical spine (Mt. Sinai Journal of Medicine, Gordon 1994). The disease is caused by degeneration in the cervical spine disks due to age, overuse or trauma. As disks degenerate, the joints in the back of the neck, called facet joints, see increased stresses and arthritis develops along with resulting pain.

     
    What are the Symptoms of Neck problems?

    Along with having neck pain itself, the pain may radiate into the shoulder blade and shoulder area. In addition, upper cervical spine arthritis may lead to headaches as well.

    With a disc herniation in the neck that is pushing on a nerve root, pain will radiate into the arm. The place it radiates to will depend on which root is being pinched, such as all the way into the thumb with a C6 nerve root compression. In certain situations, a person may have numbness, pins and needles sensation, or motor weakness. If the C7 nerve root is compressed, a person may have weakness while trying to extend the wrist.

     

    What are the Treatment Options for Neck Pain?

    Physical therapy, chiropractic treatment and spinal decompression therapy may be extremely effective in settling down one’s neck pain and preventing acute pain from turning chronic.

     

    What are the Symptoms of Back Pain and When Should I See a Doctor?

    The most common symptoms of back pain are pain that radiates through the back and sometimes into the extremities. Muscle achiness is common whether a person experiences low, mid or upper back pain.

    Limited range of motion and lack of mobility may arise due to chronic pain in the back. Shooting and stabbing pain is often described with low back pain that radiates into the buttocks and into the hip areas.

    It is important to see a doctor if the pain does not subside within a couple of weeks. Most acute back pain resolves on its own, but a pain management clinic in Los Angeles or treatment with a chiropractor may make it much more tolerable.

    Immediate medical attention should be sought if:

  • The pain causes problems with incontinence or bladder control
  • It is the result of a fall or blow to the back, such as a motor vehicle accident
  • Pain is associated with a fever and throbbing pain in the abdominal region
  • If the pain is prolonged and has progressed in level of severity over time, you may need to seek medical care and discuss with your doctor the need for pain management.

     

    Back Pain

    Back pain affects 90% of individuals at some point in time, and is the second most common reason for doctor visits in America. Most back pain resolves within six to twelve weeks (over 90%), while the rest turns chronic and lasts for months to years.

    Back pain is one of the most common reasons that individuals miss work and treated by a doctor (Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 2012).

     

    Back Pain

    Many times back pain results with no known cause, in fact over 75% of the time this is the case. This is one of the challenges in treating the condition. Despite diagnostic tests, doctors may not be able to identify the cause for chronic back pain. However, there are certain conditions linked to back pain, which include:
     

  • Arthritis and osteoarthritis often seen in the low back resulting in lumbar pain and tenderness. May lead to spinal stenosis where the space around the spinal cord is narrowed.
  • Disc bulge or rupture may lead to chronic pain over time due to the pressure of the disc.
  • Muscle or ligament strain this is the most common cause of back pain and often the most treatable, however it does take time to heal. Movement and mobility may exacerbate symptoms.
  • Osteoporosis may result in compression fractures of the vertebrae due to the brittle nature of the bone.
  • Degenerative disc disease Over time, discs may lose water and sustain painful tears in the outer part of the disc.
  • Tumors may lead to chronic back pain
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