If you ever had any doubt what the expression meant, "What a pain in the neck!" You'll understand it perfectly once you have had an episode of neck pain! Cervical spine pain, or cervicalgia, is the medical diagnosis for this condition.
Acute Neck Spasm
Also sometimes called a "crick" in the neck or a pinched nerve, this condition can be scary to someone who's never experienced it. The person usually wakes up with severe pain, often on one side more than the other, and finds it excruciatingly painful to turn his or her neck. It may be caused by a patient who"slept wrong", but often patients can't recall sleeping in an unusual position. The pain may be described as stabbing, burning, sharp, or knife-like. Many times, more questioning will reveal some of the following activities or incidents which can cause subluxations of the neck vertebrae and the muscle spasm that goes along with it.
The causes of acute neck pain:
- Cradling the phone handset while typing or doing other things with the hands.
- Looking down at a book or portable device in your lap for more than a few minutes.
- Reading or watching TV with the head propped up while lying on your back.
- Sleeping or resting on the sofa with your head on the arm.
- Bumping your head getting in or out of the car.
- Working for long periods of time on a laptop computer (you should use a USB keyboard on your lap and put the actual computer on a tabletop).
- Viewing airshows or fireworks shows.
If left untreated, these episodes will tend to occur more and more frequently. They may eventually result in a chronic stiff neck that never completely goes away.
Neck Pain with Shoulder Pain:
This is an extremely common condition caused by use of a computer, study, or driving a lot. One of the most effective ways to manage it is to set a reminder every 30 minutes to do a brief session of exercises, such as the Upper Trapezius and Levator Scapula stretch and Chin Retraction exercise on our video exercise page.
Managing this type of lower neck pain can require some assistance, especially if it is accompanied by upper back pain and/or shoulder pain. Once it has become a chronic pain condition, correction can take patience and skill. Our Massage Therapists can give great relief of the muscle spasm, and chiropractic adjustments can keep things moving fluidly so that the muscles are less prone to go into spasm again.
Neck Pain with Jaw Pain or Clicking:
A general rule of treating temporomandibular joint problems (TMJ) is that the pain can be referred to any point you can touch with your fingers, if you place your thumb on the joint (located right in front of your ear opening). Many people are astonished, when their jaw alignment is corrected, to find that their shoulder or neck pain goes away almost immediately.
Neck Pain with Arm Numbness or Tingling:
This type of neck pain is one of the most worrisome. Pain with numbness or tingling is often, but not always, nerve pain. It may be caused by a herniated disc, thoracic outlet syndrome, or trigger point referral. This type of neck pain should be investigated carefully, and if it appears after examination that a herniated disc is the cause, the doctor will refer you for an MRI scan. Herniated discs often respond to chiropractic care, massage, and home traction, but occasionally they require referral to a surgeon.
Neck Pain with Headache:
Neck pain can refer to areas in the head and cause a headache. Chiropractic care has been shown in research to be effective in relieving both tension headaches and migraine headaches. Headaches of either type which respond to treatment of subluxations and spasm in the neck are referred to as cervicogenic headaches.
Neck Pain after Car Accidents:
This type of neck pain is commonly referred to as whiplash. Whiplash injuries respond well to immediate chiropractic treatment. The best results are obtained when treatment begins within the first 24 hours. However, even patients who have been suffering with whiplash pain for years get substantial relief from chiropractic, massage, and acupuncture.