Artistic photo of neck pain.

What Causes Neck Pain?

Like many ailments in the body, it is difficult to attribute one single factor to the cause of neck pain.  Often times, it is a combination of multiple factors consisting of muscle, joint, nerve, etc.  The difficult thing is that each element often includes another.  Aside from the obvious incidents of trauma or accident, these tissues are often irritated or damaged from activities that seem harmless (Read here about "Text Neck").  Things as small as the way someone sits at their desk or sleeps at night can be a causative factor in long standing neck pain.  In addition, neck related issues frequently involve the upper back as well.  Not knowing why or how neck complaints manifest is a common problem plaguing the average American.

The neck is clinically referred to as the "cervical spine".  The structures within the cervical spine are consistent with other areas of the spine and include joints, muscles, tendons, nerves, and discs.  Most commonly, neck discomfort is attributed to a combination of soft tissue and joint dysfunction.  Symptoms arising from the neck muscles often lead to the complaint of a "stiff neck" and is clinically termed as myalgia.  Neck pain associated with joint dysfunction is commonly treated by chiropractors.  In addition to muscles and joints, neck pain can be facilitated by the irritation and injuries to the nerves and discs in the area.  The following are common diagnoses related to neck pain:
  • Muscle Tension
  • Muscle Strain/Pull
  • Facet Joint Irritation
  • Degenerative Disc Disease and Arthritis
  • Disc Herniation
  • Stenosis

Can neck pain cause headaches?

There are many factors that can contribute to a chronic headache issue.  Most commonly, chronic headaches are tension based and heavily involve the cervical spine.  These tension headaches may be associated with posture, neck muscles, TMJ dysfunction, and even sleeping positions.  We often find that in order to alleviate symptoms of headaches and a stiff/achy neck, we need to address the daily activities and habits that the individual may not be aware of.  Click Here to learn more about headaches.

What is the best sleeping position?

As stated above, the way we sleep at night including what we sleep on can contribute to symptoms of neck pain and headaches.  We are often asked what the best position to sleep in is.  We generally recommend to sleep on your side or on your back.  However, we can still end up in unfavorable positions even when sleeping on our back/side.  For example, people that sleep on their back with their arms overhead may develop shoulder problems, nerve pain, and thoracic outlet syndrome (TOS).  This is why we recommend sleeping in a "neutral" body position and is also why we do not advise sleeping on our stomach.  When laying face down, the head and neck must turn to a specific side which can lead to many of the conditions stated above.

A man sleeping on his belly which is bad for the neck.

What pillow is best for neck pain?

An image showing the dimensions of a cervical pillow.

The concepts of a neutral body position are also in play when trying to find the proper pillow.  Many "cervical pillows" have a built in contour to help accentuate the natural curves in the upper back and neck.  Many people run into problems when they have too many pillows which pushes their head upwards excessively.  On the flip side, too little support allows the head to drop into extension.  Click Here to learn more about the importance of Sleep.

What can you do for neck pain?

Our first recommendation for those that have neck pain, or any other ailment, is to evaluate the tasks that you do throughout the day.  If you drive a lot or work on a computer, have you ever assessed your sitting posture?  Maybe it's your form when you work out or you are sleeping on a 15 year old mattress and pillow.  Addressing the low hanging fruit in this fashion will yield long term benefits.

The joints and muscles of the neck can be addressed via various exercises, stretches, and mobilizations.  We often recommend using a tool like a lacrosse ball to address the trigger points in the muscles of the neck.  However, care must be given in order to not make a condition worse.

Self Myofascial Release for Neck Tension

Best Stretches for Neck Tension Relief

How can we help?

If your neck pain has not resolved with self treatment and activity modification then a visit to a qualified health professional is recommended.  Chiropractors have remained one of the leaders in the health care industry in the assessment and treatment of neck pain.  Through examination and diagnostic testing, a chiropractor can pinpoint the source of your pain and develop an effective treatment plan to remedy the complaint.  Chiropractors can treat neck issues through spinal manipulation, trigger point and soft tissue therapy, and functional rehabilitation.  In addition, they can make modifications and offer advice to address bad habits and tendencies that people tend to have throughout the day.  If you are located in Chesterfield and its surrounding communities, Elite Chiropractic and Performance is your one stop shop at proper evaluation and treatment of not just your neck pain, but any other contributing factors as well.  Click here to learn more about our unique approach to musculoskeletal care.  Call us today at (636)728-8607 to schedule a free consultation in order to get you feeling better in the shortest time possible!