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Cervical Anatomy

The neck region consists of the first 7 vertebrae in the spinal column and its connection to the ribs and collar bone (clavicle). The neck bears the weight of the head, allows a significant amount of movement, and is less protected than other parts of the spine.

What is Neck Pain?

Common neck pain may occur from muscle strain or tension from everyday activities including prolonged or poor posture, such as long periods in front of a computer or sleeping in an uncomfortable position.

Causes of Neck Pain

The most common cause of neck pain is injury to the soft tissues (ligaments or nerves), muscle spasms, and joint issues such as wear and tear which happens over time. Traumatic accidents or falls can cause severe neck injuries and pain. Rarely, neck pain may be due to infections, tumours or congenital abnormalities of the vertebrae.

The common conditions producing neck pain include:

  • Cervical disc herniation: disc herniation is the bulging or rupture of the soft fibrous disc that cushions the vertebrae. The soft central portion called nucleus pulposus bulges out through the tear in the capsule. Cervical disc herniation refers to the herniation of the discs in the cervical spine region or neck region. The condition can be caused by normal ageing or by traumatic injury to the spine. The condition results in painful, burning, tingling or numbing sensations in the neck.
  • Degenerative disc disease: Degenerative disc disease refers to the gradual deterioration of the disc between the vertebrae and is caused due to ageing. As people age, intervertebral discs lose their flexibility, elasticity and shock absorbing characteristics, resulting in neck pain.
  • Cervical spondylosis: Cervical spondylosis refers to the abnormal degeneration of the cartilage and bones in the neck region. The condition results in neck pain radiating to arms or shoulder and neck stiffness that gets worse over time.
  • Cervical stenosis: Cervical stenosis refers to the narrowing of the spinal canal that protects the spinal cord and its branching nerves. The condition causes neck pain radiating to your arms and hands.
  • Rheumatoid arthritis: It is an autoimmune disease in which the body's immune system attacks healthy joints, tissues, and organs. The condition occurs most often in the upper neck area, causing inflammation of the lining (or synovium) of joints, and resulting in neck pain, stiffness, swelling, and loss of function.

Diagnosis of Neck Pain

The diagnosis of neck pain is made with a review of your history, physical examination and may include imaging such as an Xray, MRI scan or CT scan.

Treatment Options for Neck Pain

Physiotherapy can be very effective for the treatment of neck pain. We may use a combination of hand-on manual treatment, massage, stretches, exercise and advice.

Medications for pain relief may be prescribed by your doctor. Occasionally, when symptoms are severe and affecting the nerves or when pain is unrelenting, surgery may be suitable. If we feel this is appropriate, we can help with recommendation of a good Consultant to see. And we’ll be there for your rehabilitation afterwards.

Prevention of Neck Pain

The following steps may help you prevent or improve your neck pain:

  • Practice relaxation exercises to prevent undesirable stress and tension to the neck muscles.
  • Perform stretching exercises for your neck before and after exercise.
  • Maintain good posture if you work at a computer and adjust the monitor to your eye level. Stretch your neck frequently.
  • If you use the telephone a lot, use a headset.
  • Use a pillow that keeps your neck straight.
  • Wear seat belts and use bike helmets to reduce injuries.

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