Neck Pain


neck pain

Your neck is a highly mobile area and is therefore also susceptible to stresses and strains.

There are various types of neck pain, including uncomplicated mechanical neck pain, discal neck pain and traumatic neck pain, for example whiplash.

A thorough examination by an osteopath is essential to gain a proper diagnosis, after which we will agree the best way forward to treat you and your condition. By using gentle corrective manipulative techniques and giving posture, exercise, lifestyle and basic stress management advice, we can restore your neck and thoracic spine to its correct function, ease movement, relieve your pain and get you well again.

Uncomplicated mechanical neck pain

Uncomplicated mechanical neck pain is extremely common, affecting 10% to 20% of the population at any one time. It is the second most common condition (after low back pain) that we treat at the Sussex Back Pain Clinic.

In a very similar way to back pain, often there is no apparent reason why neck pain starts, sometimes you can just wake up with a bit of neck ache that then gets progressively worse over the next day or two and you don’t really know why. This is because most neck pain is a complex condition, meaning that it is not usually due to one event, but rather many different risk factors all interacting to result in neck pain.

The usual risk factors are:

  • previous injury, such as a fall or whiplash-type strain
  • poor posture, especially if the head is pushed forward and the neck bent backwards
  • poor upper neck or thoracic (mid-back) mobility, especially if this curve has increased
  • psychological stress
  • wear and tear in the joints (spondylitis and arthritis)

Acute neck pain often occurs in the morning with patients thinking they must have slept awkwardly but this is not usually the case; it’s just that the accumulation of these factors over a period of time has disrupted normal spinal mechanics in the neck and often the upper back, that in turn has led to changes in motor control and altered movement, creating abnormal loading of the joints. During the night they have reached the limit of their ability to cope with the tissues becoming fatigued and sensitive and pain following soon afterwards, as pain-sensitive structures in the neck become irritated and inflamed. This normally manifests as pain in the base of the neck, which may radiate into the shoulders and the upper arms if particularly bad.

More commonly, neck pain increases gradually over a period of weeks or months, but may become chronic if left untreated.

Neck pain is often associated with:

  • severe stiffness, especially if degenerative facet syndrome is present
  • cervicogenic headache – usually travelling from the back of the skull to the front in a tension-type pattern
  • migraine
  • pain into the shoulder or along the border of the shoulder blade
  • trapped nerves – giving radiating pain and pins and needles into the arms or hands (common if a slipped disc has occurred)

Because the neck is so mobile it is actually very good at adapting to small injuries and increasing stresses and strains. But the accumulation of these adaptations over a period of time can eventually lead to changes in motor control and altered movement creating abnormal loading of the joints, and they reach the limit of their ability to cope. Tissues become fatigued and sensitive and pain follows soon afterwards, as pain-sensitive structures in the neck become irritated and inflamed. This normally manifests as pain in the base of the neck, which may radiate into the shoulders, the upper arms or even up into the skull.

  • Factors involved usually include:
  • previous injury, such as a fall or whiplash-type strain
  • poor posture, especially if the head is pushed forward and the neck bent backwards
  • poor thoracic (mid-back) mobility, especially if this curve has increased
  • psychological stress

Discal neck pain

If there is an underlying weakness or the loading is too great, the small discs in the neck can be damaged and bulge. This can either affect the blood supply or compress the local nerves, leading to a nerve entrapment, often giving severe pain into the arm and numbness or pins and needles in the hand.

Discal neck pain is normally diagnosed by careful clinical examination, but often an MRI is needed to confirm this. This can be arranged by the clinic at a preferential rate for our patients.

Traumatic neck pain

Forced movement of the neck can result in severe injury, painful inflammatory changes and muscle spasm leading to severe stiffness and, in some cases, severe disability. This may result as a consequence of anything that allows the joints in the neck to be forcibly pushed past their limit of motion, such as following a fall or a sporting injury. But the most common is from whiplash injury.

Whiplash is a common occurrence associated with any hyper-flexion (forward bending) or extension (backward bending) injury. Injury is caused by an acceleration/deceleration event, usually as a result of a road traffic incident or a contact sporting activity. Injury may occur to multiple structures including muscles, tendons, ligaments, bone, joint and nerve tissue and can result in significant impairment and disability.

These conditions may be very serious and complex and should be thoroughly assessed by a trauma specialist, as serious injury such as neck fracture could be present. However, if no major structural damage has occurred there could still be changes in joint mechanics, failure of function and overloading. All of which can lead to pain and stiffness that manifests as neck pain, trapped nerves or headaches months or even years later.

Treatment for Neck Pain

Our osteopaths at the Sussex Back Pain Clinic are trained to properly assess the mechanics of your neck and thoracic spine to identify any regions of undue stress and strain, as well as being able to check your posture.

By using gentle corrective manipulative techniques and giving posture, exercise, lifestyle and basic stress management advice, we can restore your neck and thoracic spine to its correct function and ease movement and relieve your pain.

After your initial assessment, we will agree the best way forward. Depending on your symptoms, this will typically involve osteopathy and possibly some exercise and stress management, or, for more severe or long-term conditions, IDD Therapy.

 

home-img-iconHow long until I’m better?

Recovery times vary according to the individual, their medical history and particular condition, but you would usually expect to see a good improvement within four osteopathic treatments.  However we would recommend a few more to not only remove your pain but to allow a full recovery. By enabling you to protect your spine from future damage we can help you reduce the risk of degenerative changes at the base of your neck.

If you have suffered with a disc bulge, prolapse or herniation – and have had nerve pain going into the arm or hand associated with pins and needles for less than 6 weeks – you would typically need in the region of 6-8 treatments to improve this.  If you have suffered with these symptoms for longer than six weeks or have already tried manual therapy without success then our IDD Therapy can help.

IDD Therapy

Even if your problem has been going on for more than 3 months or has not responded to any previous treatment, we can help you.

Our Spinal Decompression unit from the USA allows us to offer IDD Therapy to mechanically open the disc space to allow the disc material be ‘drawn’ back in, to gently stretch the tight muscle and take the pressure off trapped nerves, to a much greater degree that a practitioner could ever do with their hands, thus stopping your neck pain and nerve pain. We have had great results with patients who have been in a great deal of pain for several months and who, after a month of treatment, have been able to return to an active lifestyle again.  For some we have even been able to keep them away from the surgeon.

The Sussex Back Pain Clinic specialises in the non-surgical treatment of disc problems in the neck causing neck pain, headaches, nerve pain into the arm or hand and pins and needles by using IDD Therapy, the latest non-surgical spinal decompression technology from the USA.

IDD Therapy allows us to:

  • mechanically open the disc space to take the pressure off the trapped nerves
  • improve the flow of fluids and nutrients to allow the disc to properly repair
  • gently stretch and relax the surrounding tight muscle
  • create the best environment for the disc to heal naturally

IDD Therapy enables treatment to a much greater degree than a practitioner could ever do with their hands, helping stop your neck pain and nerve pain quickly.

We have had some superb results with patients who have been in a great deal of pain for several months. After a month of treatment, they have been able to return to an active lifestyle again, and some have even been able to avoid spinal injections and surgery.

To full details and case studies visit our IDD Therapy page

Book a consultation today and get started on the road to recovery.

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