We probably don’t spend much time thinking about our neck until it is causing us pain. The neck is actually a pretty remarkable part of your body that has a very important job – holding up our head. The average weight of the adult head is about 11 pounds, which is a lot considering that it sits on top of a vertebra that weighs mere ounces. It’s no wonder that nearly everyone at some point in their life will experience a bout of neck pain. Some causes of neck pain are avoidable while others, such as a sudden fall or car accident, can happen to anyone unexpectedly.
Ten Possible Causes of Neck Pain
- Bad posture – poor posture can sneak in during almost any activity. Some of the biggest culprits are having an improperly set up workstation where you are forced to crane your neck in order to view your computer monitor. Many people will also cradle the telephone between their ear and shoulder. Noticing these habits and taking steps to optimize your workstation setup can help you to avoid neck pain that comes from poor posture. Make sure your computer monitor is at eye-level and if you use a mobile device consistently, be sure to hold it at eye level as well.
- Poor sleep habits – an old mattress, worn out pillow, or sleep position can wreak havoc on your neck. Stomach sleepers might be at greater risk of developing neck pain since the head is turned maximally to one side or the other throughout the night. Trying to sleep on your back or side with only enough pillow(s) to keep your neck in a neutral position can be key to getting a better quality of sleep in addition to reducing your odds of waking up in the morning with a stiff neck.
- Carrying a heavy bag or purse over one shoulder – This neck pain culprit is probably one of the easiest to remedy. Many of us are guilty of carrying a heavy bag over one shoulder, whether it be a purse, messenger bag, briefcase, or backpack. When we carry a heavy load on one side of the body, your neck and spine compensate for the uneven weight. Over time, this can lead to neck pain or tightness, as well as pain in other areas of the back. Either lighten the load or switch to a bag that will allow you to carry the weight evenly, such as a backpack worn over both shoulders.
- Sports injury – slips, falls, and crashes are part of almost any sport. Getting tackled on the football field, heading the ball in soccer, getting bucked off of a horse, or crashing your bicycle can all cause injury to the neck, leading to pain or discomfort that can have a lasting effect.
- Repetitive motion – many jobs and even hobbies require making the same movements over and over again. This can lead to repetitive use wear-and-tear and can cause degeneration of the discs and joints in the neck if not properly addressed.
- Jaw problems – the neck and the jaw are more closely related than you might think. Your temporomandibular joint (TMJ) on each side of your face sits very near to the uppermost vertebra in your neck (the atlas). It is no coincidence that people who have TMJ disorders also frequently experience neck pain. It can work the other way around as well – people with neck pain might also find themselves clenching their jaw or grinding their teeth.
- Arthritis – osteoarthritis occurs when the protective cartilage on the ends of the joints between your vertebrae wears down. Your neck might hurt when you make certain movements, feel tender when pressure is applied, or you might lose some of your normal range of motion. Arthritis can also cause a grating sensation that you can feel or hear in your neck.
- Pinched nerve – when a vertebra is misaligned or if spinal deterioration has occurred, it can start to irritate the nerve roots that branch off of the spinal cord in the neck. This can cause not only pain, but can also cause numbness, tingling, and weakness in the shoulders, arms, and hands.
- Whiplash injury – though commonly thought of as a result of a car accident, whiplash can affect your neck from other causes too, such as a sports injury or slip and fall. Whiplash causes damage to the tissues of the neck, including the joints, ligaments, muscles, and nerve roots. The symptoms of whiplash may not be evident immediately following the initial trauma. Common symptoms of whiplash include neck pain and stiffness, headaches, shoulder pain, numbness in the arm or hand, and difficulty with concentrating or memory.
- Atlas misalignment – the atlas is the uppermost vertebra in your neck and is the most freely movable segment of your entire spine. Because it has a wide range of motion, which enables us to turn our head in all directions, it can also be vulnerable to misaligning. When this occurs, the weight of the head is no longer carried in a balanced position over the top of the neck, which can cause strain and stress throughout the cervical spine. By correcting the atlas and returning the head to its normal posture, it can ease the stress caused to the rest of the neck.
Upper Cervical Chiropractic for Neck Pain – It Just Makes Sense
Upper cervical chiropractors are expertly trained to address neck pain and discomfort. Even a small misalignment of the upper part of the neck can create imbalance throughout the rest of the spine, which can not only lead to neck pain, but to mid- and low back pain as well. Upper cervical atlas adjustments are different too; we take very precise images of the head and neck to create an adjustment that is specific to each individual. Because of how focused our adjustments are, they require very little force and are designed to hold in place for a longer period of time. This is how many patients experiencing neck pain can achieve natural, lasting relief under upper cervical chiropractic care. If you are suffering from ongoing neck pain and are looking for a solution, consulting with an upper cervical chiropractor in your area can help shed some light on the underlying cause of your condition.