The proverbial ‘Pain in the neck’ is really not a laughing matter. It affects more than 2 million Canadians every year and is the second most common pain syndrome in our society. It can happen to all age groups and in all sectors of business and physiques.
Pain often is reported to be on the side of the neck, at the base of the skull or at the part where the neck joins the thoracic spine. Headache is also a common symptom while dizziness and some short term memory loss can sometimes be found.
The causes of neck pain are many; for the most part, joint degeneration is the first on the list followed by muscle spasm from overuse or poor posture. Other causes could be sport injury, accidents or unusual activities e.g. painting ceiling or carrying heavy and awkward loads.
Joint degeneration is a given in people over the age of 50. In cases of accident or trauma such as sport injury or minor car accident, premature joint degeneration could set in and causes problems. However, in the past 15 years the number of younger people having neck pain without prior incident is on the increase. This is largely due to poor posture working with computers and laptops over long hours.
The proliferation of video games also created a lot of neck pain in young people and if gone uncorrected can lead to early onset of degeneration and arthritis of the neck.
The pathology of neck pain starts with over usage, trauma or prolonged poor posture. These situations cause harmful stress loading on the spinal facet joints and ligaments; sometimes the stress load is so severe that it can cause cracks to the facet joint surface or tearing of the ligaments. Once the damages take place, inflammation of the tissue gets hold and pain with muscle spasm then spread throughout the head and neck region and sometimes down the arm as well. The worse of it is pain at night that causes loss of sleep and by day time, one is totally exhausted.
To prevent neck strain, good posture at work is essential. When face with unusual activity or loads, try to get some help or figure out some easier way to do the chore. Prolonged work hours are always harmful no matter how good the posture is or how wonderful the work station is designed. Once inflammation has set in, avoid using heat over the area because it can promote longer period of inflammatory state no matter how good it feels when you first apply it to the neck. Daily gentle stretching exercises of 5-10 minutes are also very necessary to maintain the health and well being of the neck. Look after it and use it wisely and you will never be one ‘Pain in the Neck’.