Injury, age and daily wear can all affect your neck. When the cervical spine goes through sudden force, the vertebrae can become misaligned. This can be caused by anything from a minor slip to a car accident.
Another common neck injury is whiplash: when the cervical spine is forced forward, then pulled back in a fast motion, that whipping motion strains the spine and supporting tissues of the neck and head.
As we age, degenerative disorders can affect the spine. Osteoarthritis causes deterioration of the cartilage and the bones develop bone spurs – boney projections that irritate surrounding tissue.
Spinal stenosis causes nerve passageways in the vertebrae to narrow, trapping nerve roots.
Degenerative disc disease reduces the height and elasticity of intervertebral discs, causing the discs to bulge or herniate, resulting in pain among themselves and the surrounding areas.
Daily life and personal habits can also generate neck pain. Poor posture leads to the build-up of scar tissue around the spine and associated muscles, causing the neck to stay in that position.
Obesity and weak abdominal muscles also contribute to the neck being pushed forward in an unnatural position, while stress can cause neck muscles to contract, bringing on tightness and pain.
When you first see your chiropractor, he or she will ask questions about your neck and the pain you are feeling. Physical and neurological exams will be performed, and if needed, a CT scan, an MRI or an EMG.
For misaligned joints in the neck, your chiropractor can perform neck adjustments by hand, using quick, precise movements to shift the neck back into line. Decreasing the pressure the misalignment is causing provides pain relief to the area.
Your chiropractor may also want to use massage, mobilization or exercises. Treatment type and duration will depend on the cause and severity of your neck pain.
So if you have a stiff, swollen or painful neck, schedule an appointment to see your chiropractor. Don’t let neck pain stop you living your life!