Neck Pain Treatment Options In Northern Colorado
When our necks are pain-free, we often take them for granted. But when we begin to experience frequent pain, dull aching, or just tightness in our necks, it can dramatically affect our quality of life.
Neck pain is a common medical condition that can be caused by any number of injuries, diseases, or even lifestyle choices. While neck pain can be frustrating at best and debilitating at worst, there are treatment options available to you that can help to cure or manage this pain. At Scott Family Health, our team of experienced chiropractors, massage therapists, and physical therapists can help you address your neck pain and improve your quality of life.
Do You Know The Signs Of Neck Pain?
- Stiffness: You might have difficulty in moving your neck, especially when turning it from side to side.
- Stabbing pain: This is often localized to one spot in your neck. This is a sharp pain that’s often experienced in the lower neck.
- Ambient soreness: Your neck might just feel generally tender and achy.
- Difficulty lifting things: Neck pain could cause numbness in your extremities, making it difficult to lift objects.
- Frequent headaches: When your neck is irritated, the muscles and nerves connected to your head can also be affected, leading to headaches.
Neck Pain At A Glance
Neck pain is a common condition that affects many individuals. Sometimes the cause is known, like a trauma (such as a car accident), and sometimes the symptoms progress over time.
Neck pain is a condition that can be ongoing or short-lived. Many patients seek neck pain when the pain is severe or there are other associated symptoms with neck pain, like headaches or numbness or tingling in the arms or hands. Neck pain may be multifaceted due to the complex nature of the neck (or cervical) region. Pain and stiffness may occur from muscular and ligamentous injury or more serious causes like boney pathologies or intervertebral disc injuries.
The Loveland chiropractors at Scott Family Health can help you determine what is causing your pain, and the best steps to provide neck pain relief.
Treatment may vary depending on the neck pain causes you’ve been diagnosed with. Treatment may include chiropractic care, acupuncture, physical therapy, and massage therapy. X-rays or other diagnostic tests may be necessary to determine the best care for your condition.
Where Neck Pain Begins
You’re never aware of the weight of your own head until you are experiencing neck pain. Neck pain can stem from any number of sources. Your neck is vulnerable to overuse, injury, and disease. Some of the most common causes of neck pain we see in our patients include:
- Muscle strain. Modern living and work have many people seated at a desk all day. Poor posture while working on a computer or a smartphone can lead to muscle strain. Even more innocuous things, like reading for too long, or clenching your jaw, can cause the muscles in your neck to become strained and sore.
- Disease. In some major illnesses like cancer, meningitis, or rheumatoid arthritis, neck pain is often one of the symptoms.
- Compression of the nerves. A herniated disk or bone spurs in your neck vertebrae press on the nerves in your spinal cord, causing pain.
- Injury. Whether it’s from sports, car accidents, or even a hard fall, neck injuries can damage the soft tissues in the neck, leading to a host of complications.
- Wear and tear on joints. Just like the rest of the joints in your body, the joints in your neck can wear with age and use. To compensate for this wear and tear, your body forms spurs on your neck joints that can cause pain and discomfort.
Neck Pain Can Be Treated At Scott Family Health
For many, neck pain is an infrequent nuisance that goes away on its own. Perhaps from overuse or mild injury, these instances of neck pain can typically be treated with over-the-counter pain meds, stretching, heat, and relaxation.
But if your neck pain persists, or begins to affect your quality of living, it’s time to see a specialist. Typically, we suggest scheduling an appointment at our Fort Collins or Loveland chiropractic office when your neck pain becomes severe, persists for days without relief, spreads into your limbs, or occurs alongside headaches, numbness, and feelings of weakness and tingling. Here at Scott Family Health, we can treat a wide variety of neck injuries, pains, and conditions.
Cervical Acceleration Injury
Commonly referred to as “whiplash,” cervical acceleration injuries are caused when shearing forces are applied to the spine. When you’re in an event like a car crash, sports collision, or fall, the impact can damage the muscles, joints, and ligaments in the spine. The ligaments in the spine do not grow back by other tissues, causing the spine to misalign. With decreased stability and exaggerated joint movement, the neck is further damaged.
Some might feel the pain of a whiplash injury right away, while others might not feel anything for days or weeks after their injury. Typically, symptoms of whiplash include decreased range of motion in the neck, sharp, shooting pain in the neck, and dull aches in the head, jaw, and upper back. In some cases, whiplash can also cause symptoms like headaches, memory loss, insomnia, and dizziness.
Whiplash is generally treated with massage and physical therapy, acupuncture, and other treatment options as recommended by your chiropractic care specialist.
Cervical Disc Herniation
Throughout your neck are intervertebral discs that act as the suspension system of your spinal column. It’s these joints that allow you to move and rotate your head and neck. However, these discs can be herniated. Each of these discs is made of two parts — an inner gelatinous layer (the nucleus pulposus) and the disc wall (the annulus fibrosus). When these parts breakdown, the disc can become herniated.
There are several causes of herniated discs. From seemingly benign causes like age, diet, and weight, to more serious injuries like work accidents and trauma, herniated discs can happen suddenly and without warning. Those with a herniated cervical disc report symptoms that start with a stiff neck, and general aches and pains. Later, these symptoms can become sharp pain in the neck, radiating pain between the shoulder blades, muscle spasms, and a change in posture. In some cases, it may result in weakness in the hands and arms, and decreased reflexes.
Cervical radiculopathy is a general diagnosis that is used to describe pain that results from irritated nerves in the neck, or the nerves that connect to the shoulders, arms, upper back, and hands. This type of pain is caused primarily by one of three causes — disc herniation, degenerative disc disease, and degenerative joint disease. It can also be caused by any injuries that put pressure on the nerve roots.
The symptoms of cervical radiculopathy present in a variety of ways depending on the source of the irritation and where it occurs in the spine. Generally, these symptoms include pain that spread from the neck into the arms, chest, upper back, and shoulders. It’s not uncommon to experience some degree of muscle weakness, numbness and tingling in the extremities, and a lack of coordination.
This form of neck pain is usually treated with a combination of options, like physical therapy, anti-inflammatory drugs, and chiropractic care.
A cervicogenic headache is pain that is felt in the head but stems from an injury or pain in the neck. This is a secondary headache, meaning that it’s caused by another issue outside of the head. In many cases, it’s an injury or disorder in the cervical spine, or vertebral discs, or soft tissues in the neck. In other cases, it’s the result of an injury sustained from a fall or from playing sports. These headaches can also occur after sleeping in an awkward position which pinches the nerves in the neck.
The symptoms of a cervicogenic headache are not unlike a migraine, making it difficult for some to distinguish between the two. Those with this form of neck pain may experience pain on the sides of their head and face, a stiff neck, pain around their eyes, or a headache that occurs when the neck or head is held in certain positions.
Managing pain from a cervicogenic headache can be done through gentle manipulation and pressure of the parts of your neck where the pain originates. Physical therapy, massage, and chiropractic work have all been found to be an effective way to address this form of neck pain.
In older people, neck arthritis is a fairly common condition. Over time, the joints that make up the seven cervical vertebrae in your neck begin to deteriorate. This degenerative process can cause decreased disc height, loss of cartilage in the joints, the growth of bone spurs, and a thickening of the bones. The end result is that the spinal canal in the neck joints begins to narrow, putting pressure on the spinal cord and nerves.
The symptoms of neck arthritis commonly include pain and stiffness, along with a reduced range of motion in the neck. In severe cases, individuals may experience numbness in their extremities, including their neck, upper back, shoulders, arms, and hands. This is caused by the compression of the nerves in the spine.
While treating neck arthritis cannot undo the degenerative changes, it can lessen the intensity of the symptoms. Good posture can relieve neck strain, and anti-inflammatories can limit the pain an individual feels. Other neck pain relief options include chiropractic care, acupuncture sessions, and physical and massage therapy.
Occipital neuralgia, or base of the head nerve pain, describes the headache pains that are located at the base of the skull. This form of neck pain can be caused by a number of traumas. Direct blows, whiplash, falls, spinal compression, nerve lesions, localized infections, and even gout can cause occipital neuralgia. The end result is inflamed nerves that are trapped within the neck muscles. The muscles spasm, and cause pain within the nerves.
Those with occipital neuralgia describe pain that radiates from the back of their head, to the sides, and then behind the eyes. The pain typically arches across the head, starting in the upper neck or at the base of the skull. While the pain from occipital neuralgia can be intense, it can be effectively treated with options like acupuncture, chiropractic work, and physical and massage therapy.
One of the most common forms of headache, a tension headache is usually described as a radiating pain that starts at the top of the neck and can be felt around the head. While the pain is generally mild to moderate in intensity, it can affect your quality of living if it is chronic, or persistent over long periods of time.
While there’s no distinct cause of tension headaches, research suggests that it could be the result of a number of issues. In some cases, it could be the misalignment of the spine, a whiplash injury, degenerating discs, poor posture, poor nutrition, or simply an interaction between your nerves and the chemicals in your brain. Whatever causes it, the symptoms typically remain the same — pain in the neck, shoulders, and head that can last from a few minutes to several days. NSAIDs, heat, and relaxation are effective ways to manage tension headaches and the associated neck pain, as is chiro care.
Thoracic Outlet Syndrome
Thoracic Outlet Syndrome, or TOS, is the compression of the nerves and blood vessels in the spine as they pass to the arms. There are three forms of TOS, each affecting a different set of structures.
Scalene syndrome refers to the scalene, the group of muscles that are in the neck. This compresses the nerves and vessels as they pass from the neck to the shoulders. Costoclavicular syndrome is when the nerves and vessels are compressed between the collarbone and the first rib of the ribcage. Pectoralis minor syndrome is when the nerves and vessels of the chest muscles are compressed.
Those with TOS report symptoms like pain, tingling, numbness, and weakness in the shoulders, arms, and hands. These are mostly experienced at night when shoulders are commonly compressed by sleeping posture. It’s common to wake up numb arms, and tingling sensations. Your chiropractor can typically help treat TOS with acupuncture and physical therapy.
Your spine is made up of 33 bones, with seven vertebrae comprising your neck. On each side of the spine are facet joints that connect with the vertebra above and below it. When you experience a sudden onset of pain or stiffness in the neck, you may have a wry neck. This is a common condition that leads to pain in the neck and upper back. When the neck is moved, stretched, or compressed in certain ways, it places pressure on the facet joints. With too much pressure, the joints can be damaged, tearing the connective tissues, or damaging the cartilage.
A wry neck can be caused by a number of things. In some cases, it’s as simple as “waking up on the wrong side of the bed,” and moving your neck too quickly. Poor posture, excessive and repetitive neck movements, or strain from lifting can also lead to a wry neck. With massage and physical therapy treatments, as well as rest, most cases of wry neck can be treated quickly.