At Enhanced Health & Wellness, neck pain is one of the most relevant injuries that people can relate to. Neck pain ranks in the top 5 disorders in North America. This is one of the most common reasons why people visit our Edmonton chiropractic clinic.
Around the world, up to 75% of the population has experienced some type of neck pain in their lifetime.
Neck pain affects how you drive, sleep, and how you function on a daily basis. Neck pain can put you at risk for further injury while you are driving or even while you are on a leisurely walk.
Understanding the causes and presentation of your neck pain will help you recognize how to prevent it and lead to a healthier, pain free life.
Headaches are quite common and almost everyone has experienced them at one point in their life. Headaches can have many different causes and feel slightly different from each other but they all have a common symptom of pain. Depending on the type of headache you are suffering from, pain will present uniquely in different areas of the head.
Different types of headaches:
- Tension Headaches
- Cervicogenic (Neck) Headaches
- Migraine Headaches
- Sinus Headaches
- TMJ (jaw) Related Headaches
- Cluster Headaches
- Exercise-induced Headaches
Although listed are only some of the different types of headaches, the physical causes of them are numerous. For example, tension headaches are caused by trigger points located in the shoulders and neck region due to increased tightness from daily activities and dysfunction.
Whereas sinus headaches are primarily caused by an illness that increases mucous production and the congestion built up in the sinuses leads to pressure or a dull ache.
With a variety of different causes of headaches, here are some common causes:
- Poor posture
- TMJ dysfunction
- Hormonal Imbalance
- Whiplash (car accidents)
- Diet and Exercise habits
Considering there are so many different causes and types of headaches and symptoms, it is essential to have a thorough history and assessment performed to properly diagnose the cause. Discovering your lifestyle habits, postures, and activities will help to provide appropriate treatment for your headaches.
For example, the way your sleep or the positions you are in while at work will have an effect on your headaches.
Decreasing tension or stiffness as well as discovering any sensitivities that may be a trigger for headaches is important for managing the condition also. Providing education on the cause of your headaches can be simple solution to help you get rid of them.
Treatment such as chiropractic adjustments, soft tissue therapy, acupuncture, physiotherapy, exercises, postural analysis and correction, and dietary changes are all effective ways in managing your headaches.
Cervical strains and sprains are one of the most common neck injuries that people can relate to in regard to neck pain. A cervical strain is an injury that involves the muscles of the neck often referred to as a ‘pulled muscle’. A sprain, however, is an injury that involves the ligaments or joints.
Both strains and sprains present as similar pain and symptom patterns. Patients who experience symptoms from this diagnosis often feel pain when moving their head, neck, and sometimes even their arms. Sometimes cervical strains and sprains can be the cause of headaches as well.
The main causes of this condition are:
- Repetitive use injury
- Prolonged poor posture
- Car Accidents
- Sports injuries
Although there are steps to help prevent this type of neck pain, there are occasions where this type of injury is impossible to avoid. A car accident, for example, is an incident where whiplash can occur and there are no steps for prevention. In this situation, your next course of action is to seek a proper assessment and ongoing treatment.
When the injury is caused by poor posture, repetitive overuse, or improper exercise, there are ways to help prevent these from happening. Being educated on proper lifestyle habits, receiving instructions on relevant exercises, and reviewing ergonomics at the workplace can build the groundwork for a healthier body.
Posture Related Neck Pain
We hear about the importance of posture our whole lives. In fact, posture has been ingrained in our minds so much that when someone starts talking about posture, we adjust ours to make it better. The typical ‘bad posture’ of rounded shoulders and overly forward head position influences the muscles and joints of the upper back and neck leading to back and neck pain.
Posture related neck pain causes:
- Driving for long hours
- Increased technological use (phones, tablets, etc.) causing us to look down constantly
- Office/computer work
- Exercising with poor technique
The longer we have these sustained postures, the greater chance that we will start feeling posture-related neck pain as the stresses continue to accumulate. Being in these sustained postures causes certain muscles to become increasingly tight while others will become underused and weak.
In regards to posture, this muscular imbalance is commonly known in the health care industry as ‘Upper Crossed Syndrome’.
With this syndrome, the rounded shoulders forward and the chin protruding forward cause increased stress on the areas which can cause headaches and pain at the base of the neck or shoulders.
Being more mindful of the length of time spent in this posture can help tremendously. Moving more frequently, around once every hour, is one of the best ways to prevent this type of neck pain before it starts. Whether you get up to go to the washroom, grab a glass of water, do 10 chin tucks, or do a mini walk around the office, all are effective ways to feel better and prevent neck pain.
If you are already experiencing this type of neck pain, our practitioners (chiropractor, physiotherapist, massage therapist) can teach you proper form and posture to prevent this problem in the future.
Identifying and understanding what the problem is on the daily and receiving treatment to decrease the muscle tension, increase range of motion, and decrease pain will have you living a happier, healthier lifestyle!
Whiplash from Car Accidents
The way cervical whiplash occurs is from a rapid back and forth movement of the neck when being hit. Whether you are rear-ended or hit from the side, whiplash will occur in the majority of cases and neck pain is quite common. Other symptoms that may accompany the whiplash from a car accident are: headaches, dizziness, decreased range of motion, and more.
Most of the time this type of injury is unavoidable. Having an assessment performed and receiving treatment soon after your accident will help you recover from your injuries faster and help prevent long term symptoms. In Edmonton and all of Alberta, you are entitled to medical treatment whether you were at fault or a victim in the accident.
At Enhanced Health & Wellness, we offer direct billing and our fees are covered for Chiropractic, Physiotherapy, Registered Massage Therapy, Acupuncture, and Active Rehabilitation. We take on as much of the paperwork and dealing with the insurance company as possible so that you can focus on receiving treatments and your recovery.
Disc Pain and Radiculopathy
In between the vertebra (bones) of the spine, there are ‘discs’ that act as shock absorbers to decrease forces applied to the spine and neck and help with movement. The intervertebral discs, as they are called, are made up of an outer layer known as the annulus fibrosis and an inner center known as the nucleus pulposus.
The annulus layer contains nerve fibers and pain receptors that relay information to the brain when there has been damage to the area. Your brain will take the information and respond accordingly by bringing inflammation to the damaged area as part of the healing process.
Besides the discs located between the vertebrae of the neck, we have spinal nerves that come from the spinal cord that innervated both sides of the body. When the disc gets injured, it can bulge in a certain direction and possibly affect the nerve. This is known as radiculopathy.
Cervical radiculopathy can either be felt as shooting pain down one of your arms or possibly numbness, tingling, and/or weakness in the arm.
Causes of Neck Disc Pain and Radiculopathy:
- Overuse and repetitive microtrauma – being in a sustained position over hours, days, months
- Trauma – car accident, fall, sports injury
- Sudden, unguarded movement – a misstep, quickly lifting heavy objects with no control
- Postural – loss of curvature in your neck or activities leading to increased stress on the discs
- Degenerative – aging changes that create bone protrusions, decreasing the space the nerves come out of
Typically, patients will complain of pain in the neck that travels down their arm and sometimes into the hand or around the shoulder blade. Headaches can be a result of neck disc pain as well as pain in the arm that is more severe than the neck pain.
Depending on the presentation of the neck disc pain, conservative treatment is the recommended first approach in managing the condition. Controlling and decreasing the pain and inflammation is part of an initial treatment followed by restoring the range of motion to prevent chronic pain and disability.
Treatment consists of soft tissue therapy, manipulation of the joints, pain-free range of motion exercises, and patient education. Later treatment includes rehabilitation exercises that involve creating more stability, strengthening, and posture retraining.
What is the TMJ? Many times people will mention that they ‘have TMJ’. The TMJ is the temporomandibular joint which is the jaw joint that connects to your skull and allows you to open and close your mouth. When people experience pain in their jaw and mention their TMJ, they are probably trying to say that they have a TMJ disorder (TMD – temporomandibular disorder) that is linked with pain.
The TMJ joint is a unique joint in the body that is accompanied by unique issues since we are constantly using them daily! Just like the vertebra of the spine, the TMJ also contains a uniquely shaped disc. Increased tightness, pain, and even headaches can be caused by slight shifting of the joint itself or by a displacement of the disc creating a popping or clicking sound.
The main causes of TMJ pain are:
- Trauma – car accident, sports injury, etc.
- Over grinding or clenching – from stress or poor sleeping habits
- Overuse – increased chewing, like gum or chewing hard foods like carrots
- Improper bite
- Keeping mouth open too long – at the dentist
To prevent TMJ pain, being mindful of the foods you are eating, wearing a proper mouth guard while playing sports, decreasing overall stress, and chewing evenly on both sides are some things to consider.
What to Expect During your First Visit
Meeting your practitioner for the first time can be a little intimidating. At Enhanced Health & Wellness, we work with our patients to ensure they are as comfortable as possible.
At your first appointment, your practitioner will go over a thorough history to determine the cause and mechanism of your condition. Before an exam and treatment are performed, they will review your comfort levels and possible things that you are uncomfortable with. Learning your thoughts about your condition and goals for treatment will help guide the treatment plan.
After a detailed exam is performed, treatment is administered the same day and a customized treatment plan will be created. The treatment plan will include: treatment options, education and advice, and possibly home exercises to work on.
Don’t Live With Neck Pain
It is common for patients to ignore their pain and it continues to persist for many weeks or months. One of the most common phrases heard from a patient that has been experiencing pain for weeks is, ‘I thought it would go away’.
Once a problem persists for more than twelve weeks, it is considered chronic neck pain.
Although some neck pain can be manageable on its own, it is important to receive appropriate treatment in most cases. Without treatment, neck pain (especially chronic neck pain) can decrease your quality of life.
If you are experiencing neck pain from a car accident, work stress, a fall, or if you are unsure of the cause, it is recommended to book an appointment online or give us a call earlier rather than waiting too long.