Neck pain is one of the most common conditions currently affecting Americans, and the number of cases is rising each year. Neck pain is currently the fourth leading cause of disability in the US and it is estimated that over 30% of Americans suffer from neck pain each year. For such a common condition, it is important to know the frequent causes of neck pain, as well as treatment options, including chiropractic care, and lifestyle changes that can help prevent neck pain from occurring in the future.
Causes of Neck Pain
Although neck pain can be caused by a number of different factors, let’s discuss some of the most common causes of neck pain.
Americans now spend more time sitting than at any other time in human history. We sit for at least 8 hours every day in front of a computer at work. Many people spend over an hour a day sitting in their car for their commute to work. We spend multiple hours every day looking at our mobile devices, then we go home and sit on the couch to watch television. Spending so much time sitting, especially if not in the proper position, leads to poor posture, which is probably the number one cause of neck pain today.
When we take x-rays of the cervical spine, the neck region, we can assess posture and proper alignment. When looking at a cervical x-ray from the side, there should be a reverse C-shaped curve in the neck that measures between 30 and 35 degrees. In practice, we commonly see this curve being completely straight, or even worse, reversed. This change in cervical curvature puts strain on the muscles in the back of the neck, which can lead to neck pain over time.
Most Americans spend the vast majority of their days in two places. 8-10 hours a day at a computer while at work, then another 6-8 hours a day laying in bed while we sleep. That means we spend about 75% of our day either at a desk or in bed! We already discussed how posture at work can lead to neck pain, but sleeping in the wrong position is another leading cause of neck pain.
We commonly hear from patients that they feel like they just “slept wrong.” This commonly means that they woke up one morning with neck pain that wasn’t there the day before. Sleeping on your stomach, or with a pillow that is the improper height can definitely cause neck pain. Sleeping in the right position, with the proper pillow, can play an important role in helping prevent neck pain.
Although many cases of neck pain are the result of our everyday activities, such as work and sleep postures, neck pain can also be caused by trauma. The most common cause of neck trauma is motor vehicle accidents. When involved in an accident, whiplash, an injury that occurs due to the rapid forward and backward movement of the neck during an accident, can occur.
Whiplash can cause damage to the muscles and ligaments of the neck, as well as cause the vertebra of the neck to become misaligned. It is common not to feel neck pain until a few days after an accident. Even if you are not having pain after an accident, it is important to have your neck evaluated by a medical professional. If left untreated, damage caused by a car accident can lead to pain months, or even years later.
Treatment Options for Neck Pain
Chiropractic care has been proven to be both safe and effective for the treatment of neck pain. Misalignments in the neck can put pressure on spinal nerves, which can lead to neck pain. Chiropractors are trained to find and correct these misalignments. There are a number of techniques that may be used by a chiropractor to correct these misalignments, based on what is found after a thorough examination, and possible x-rays. Click here to learn more about chiropractic treatment.
Correct Your Ergonomics
Since neck pain is often caused by poor posture, it is important to correct any ergonomic issues that may be leading to your poor posture. Even if your neck pain goes away through successful treatment, it is likely that the pain will return if you go back to doing all of the same things again. Correct ergonomics are essential for preventing neck pain. For more information on proper office ergonomics and sleeping positions, click here.
Poor posture is usually the combination of weak posterior neck muscles, muscles in the back of your neck and upper back, and tight anterior neck and chest muscles, muscles in the front of your body. Therefore, in order to correct poor posture, specific exercises should be geared both to stretch out the muscles in the front of the neck , and strengthen the muscles in the back of the neck. Click here to learn more about posture exercises.