Most people will suffer one or more episodes of neck pain during their lifetime.
It’s not unusual for neck pain to come on suddenly and resolve quickly without the need for any intervention.
Less frequently, however, nerves in the neck can become trapped, compressed, or irritated. As we age the shock-absorbing pads between the bones of the neck (known as intervertebral discs) can narrow with age and can cause stiffness and pain with movement and nerves in the neck can become trapped.
Neck pain can follow a traumatic event such as a road traffic collision or a sporting injury. It may also have a gradual onset, perhaps linked to poor posture.
In every vertebra there are small joints called facets. These allow movement to occur in the spine.
Sometimes these joints can become “locked”. This usually occurs from an injury, or from repetitive bad posture, such as sitting at a desk badly for a long period of time. The vertebra’s movement then becomes restricted, and the muscles surrounding it become tight and may even spasm. This can cause a huge amount of pain.
Osteopathic treatment combining deep soft tissue massage and possibly joint manipulation means this can often be significantly improved or resolved within a few treatments.
Between each vertebra there is a gel-like structure, called a disc (or intervertebral disc). This disc acts like a cushion between the vertebrae to absorb shock.
Sometimes, however, this disc can become damaged. To make it simple, think of the disc like a “donut” with jam in the middle.
If there is pressure put upon the disc it can “bulge”.
As the bulge increases, the dough part of the donut (annulus fibrosus) can become torn, often caused by lifting and twisting injuries.
This can then allow the jam part of the donut (nucleus pulposus), to escape. We then call this a herniated or prolapsed disc (sometimes referred to as a “slipped-disc”).
This jam can, in some cases, end up pushing on a nerve, causing more pain, often down the arms.
Osteopathic treatment combines deep soft tissue massage, articulation and stretches to decompress the spine and take some of the compression off the disc and/or the nerves. Joint manipulation may also be warranted.
Note: Long-term, severe disc injuries may need imaging to determine whether steroid injections or surgery are warranted.
Whiplash is caused by a violent jolting of the head back and forth, usually as a result of a sudden impact.
A muscle strain or pulled muscle occurs when your muscle is overstretched or torn. This is usually caused by fatigue, overuse, or improper use of a muscle.
Minor muscle strains can take a few days to a couple of weeks to heal.
Headaches have many causes, one of which can be neck, upper back and other musculoskeletal issues.
Some sufferers of headaches may need further medical investigation to rule out any serious underlying pathology.
If there is no serious underlying problem then treatments can include: