What are the causes of neck pain?
Neck pain is a symptom of various origins. Musculoskeletal (muscles and bones) causes are by far the most common, but neck pain can also be a symptom of non-musculoskeletal sources such as infection, neoplasm, vascular disorders (carotid or vertebral arterial dissection), metabolic bone disease, inflammatory, neurological and visceral diseases, causes for your Physiotherapist must always remain vigilant for.
From a musculoskeletal perspective, all structures around the neck have nerves and so, they all may be a contributing source to a neck pain disorder. Pain arising from a musculoskeletal disorder is typically felt in the back of the neck. Because there are different levels in our neck i.e. you might have read about C2, C3, C4 etc, pain from each level might cause pain spread to the head, shoulder, upper back or down the arm. One might report pain in the arm when looking up or pain in the shoulder blade with neck movements.
Other important causes of neck pain
Although musculoskeletal dysfunctions usually underlie neck pain, there are other presentations and causes of neck pain. Neck pain may be secondary or comorbid features of pain syndromes in the craniomandibular complex (your jaw), the shoulder or arm. Alternatively, the neck itself may be a site of referred pain, rather than a pain source, as encountered in disorders such as migraine, cardiac disease or cervical arterial dissections. In simple terms, the source of your pain in the neck may not be from the neck. It may arise from somewhere else. You will need to consult a health care professional who is able to assess the cause of your neck pain and advise you on the next steps.
Neck pain relief. Is this the goal of therapy?
Pain is an important consideration and you would usually seek pain relief as a primary goal of treatment. And you are right! You want pain relief from your neck pain. You’re looking for a neck pain remedy. As important as pain relief may be, it is but one consideration. Pain and injury to any region of the musculoskeletal system have profound effects on the neuromuscular system and the human body. The neck is no exception. Although pain relief is an important outcome, your Physiotherapist in PhysioX also focuses on decreasing the recurrence rate. It is not good just to have a quick fix for your neck pain. Rehabilitation and exercises for your neck pain will be targeted and specific to restore neuromuscular function and it is a logical component of the management program. Pain is not the only symptom of neck disorders. Other symptoms of neck pain disorders may include feelings of dizziness and unsteadiness, blurred vision and cognitive difficulties such as problems concentrating. Neck pain exercises may include strengthening of your neck muscles or shoulder muscles or improving the mobility in your neck and upper back in order to restore normal movement in your neck.
The neck as an important proprioceptive sensory organ
The cervical spine is an important proprioceptive sensory organ. What does this even mean? In short, there is a processing centre in our brains whereby information from the neck, eyes and balance system feed into. It will allow us to have a logical picture of where our bodies are and how it will remain in balance. When our neck muscles are in pain or have any injuries to our neck, this information is disturbed and therefore a mismatch in the information, thereby causing the symptoms of dizziness and unsteadiness. Physiotherapy for neck pain, therefore, cannot stop at just pain relief. Management must also focus on addressing these symptoms and sensorimotor deficits when present.
Having neck pain or having these symptoms as described above and not sure who to turn to? Contact us to find out more and we would love to have you, not merely in pain relief, but to address any of the associated symptoms with your neck pain!