The term “cervicalgia” colloquially known as “neck pain”, is a term that describes an “algia or pain in the cervical region”. Some diseases or pathologies related to cervicalgia can also affect the arm with throbbing tingling, weakness and radiating pain called cervico-brachialgia.
Another type of neck pain closely related to neck pain and characterized by muscle spasm of the neck muscles is torticollis, commonly defined as a sharp pain in the neck caused by a prolonged non-physiological position for a long time (for example: a person who falls asleep with a neck tilt or turned for an hour). Everyone thinks that torticollis is a consequence of a cold, but it is not. There is a muscle spasm of the sternocleidomastoid muscle or contraction that fixes the vertebrae.
Throughout life, about 80% of the population suffers or has suffered from neck pain and statistically it affects more women than men. Patients are usually no older than 40 years of age and usually have a sedentary occupation; working at least 8 hours a day on the computer or driving, they also spend their free time in non-dynamic activities (reading or watching television or playing video games for long periods).
Why does my neck hurt? Causes of neck pain
The cause of neck pain or cervicalgia can be varied:
- Neck pain can occur due to poor posture: Trauma, mandibular malocclusion, impaired vision.
- This will cause an involuntary pension in the neck muscles which in turn causes a blockage of the cervical vertebrae.
- These vertebral blockages, if maintained over time, can cause chronic pain due to wear and tear on the vertebrae known as cervical osteoarthritis or cervical arthrosis or acute pain due to pressure on the inter-vertebral disc that can cause a cervical disc herniation which will affect a nerve root. which will cause pain in the arm.
- Due to muscle contractures and myofascial trigger points in the trapezius and cervical muscles.
- After suffering a whiplash, immobilization by means of a cervical collar is always indicated in primary care and, generally, a rectification of the cervical spine occurs at the same time .
- Inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or ankylosing spondylitis.
In many occasions the muscular tension and the blockage of the cervical vertebrae are caused by stress. To understand how stress affects the cervical area, the vision provided by Eastern medicine helps a lot. According to this, stress primarily affects the liver and gallbladder, the nervous system and the stomach. These organs, when altered or unbalanced, cause reflexes in the dorsal area and the neck. Therefore, on many occasions, in addition to the manual therapy carried out by the physiotherapist-osteopath.
What is neck pain? Symptoms and causes
Patients present to a clinic usually with spasm of the neck and shoulder muscles, especially the trapezius and splenius; It is an involuntary and persistent muscle contraction, palpable to the touch. A contracted muscle that attaches to a vertebra can pull on it, causing misalignment of the vertebrae. Pain and tension in this area can cause inflammation of the cervical spine with limited mobility, which decreases your quality of life.
Herniated disc or cervical disc. What is it, causes, symptoms and treatment
Neck pain (Cervicalgia) and its relationship with other alterations
Neck pain can be related to a variety of disorders. These alterations are:
Neck pain and headache
Headache and neck pain are closely linked and are quite common due to the pace of life in today’s society.
Cervical or neck pain is associated with headache because the cervical musculature extends and inserts into the occipital margin. When this muscle is shortened or contracted, it traps a series of nerve endings that will produce a helmet headache (it can reach pain to the eye area).
Treatment should be focused on relaxing the cervical muscles.
Neck pain (cervicalgia) & Teeth grinding (Bruxism)
Bruxism or teeth grinding is an involuntary habit of clenching the teeth that affects children and adults, it can occur during the day and at night (more common). This habit generates the following signs and symptoms: worn teeth, mood changes, head and neck pain, muscle sensitivity, among others.
Constantly clenching your teeth involuntarily (especially at night) generates fatigue in the jaw, facial and cervical muscles, increasing the tension of the myofascial tissue. The muscular imbalance generated by the aforementioned causes pain at the cervical level.
The treatment of this cervicalgia would be aimed at treating bruxism and subsequently the muscular imbalances generated by the habit.
Neck pain (cervicalgia) / vertigo & dizziness
Neck pain is closely related to dizziness and vertigo. This relationship is due to the fact that the cervical muscles when they contract can cause the blood flow to the head to be hindered.
The vertebral artery is one of those responsible for bringing blood to the head, especially to the area of the cerebellum and the ear (fundamental organs of balance). When the muscles of the cervical region are contracted, they can compress or strangulate this artery.
The first thing we must treat is the cause of the contracture at the cervical level. The most common reason is emotional: stress, anxiety or discomfort.
Neck pain and cervical radiculopathy
Cervical pain is sometimes accompanied by radiculopathy. Radiculopathy refers to a decrease in the normal sensory and motor function of a nerve.
Cervical radiculopathy occurs due to compression of the nerve roots that leave the cervical spine. This compression can be caused by various factors (structural problems, muscle contractures). In addition to neck pain, its symptoms are: sensory alteration along the upper limb (tingling sensation and numbness), weakness of the arm.
With physiotherapy treatment, most patients improve their symptoms without the need for surgery.
Neck Pain (Cervicalgia) and shoulder pain
As we know, the cervical spine is the exit point for the nerve roots of the spinal cord that make up the brachial plexus, which innervate the entire arm musculature. For this reason, any problem in the cervical region will be associated with multiple injuries to the shoulder, elbow or hand. It is for this reason that the treatment focused on the cervical spine also goes together with the upper limb, the same occurs with the lumbar spine and lower limbs.
Neck and shoulder problems. How are they related?
The nerve roots that innervate the muscles and skin of the upper limbs originate from the cervical spine (from a structure called the cervical plexus). A cervical injury directly affects the arms and even the shoulder.
Neck pain (cervicalgia) diagnosis / Diagnostic tests for neck pain
The professional should review the history of the patient with neck pain, study the symptoms and palpate the neck. Instrumental tests, in the case of neck pain, should mainly be performed a computerized axial tomography (CAT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to show if there is any nerve compression, since they also detect soft tissues. In addition, an electromyography can be performed, that is, a diagnostic test that is capable of analyzing the activity of the muscle at rest and during voluntary activation.
On the other hand, the plate or the X-rays only show the bones and the only thing you will notice is a thinning of the intervertebral discs or that the vertebrae suffer from arthritis or that they are misaligned, the detection of a cervical rectification which can be the cause of cervicalgia. Also, radiography is essential in case of neck pain, because there are some serious diseases that can be a contraindication for certain treatments such as; a spondylolisthesis, spinal canal stenosis, fractures, circulation problems and others.
There is a test widely used in Physiotherapy, Manual Therapy and Medicine called “Klein’s Test” which, although it does not assess neck pain, is essential to apply it since in a forced position it is evident if there is a compromise of the vertebral artery basilar, the occlusion of this artery is more susceptible in people with cervical rectification and produces symptoms of dizziness and vertigo.
Neck (Cervical) pain treatment
Physiotherapy has a wide range of options in treatment techniques, when it comes to dysfunction of the cervical spine, cervical pain is quite annoying, it prevents carrying out activities of daily living, and those who suffer from cervicalgia feel that it is a emergency eliminate pain due to which symptoms of vertigo, dizziness, acute headaches and even symptoms radiating to the upper limbs frequently appear, here are some videos that can help you.
The first step is correcting the posture; lowering the height of the chair at work, a mother with her arm resting on a pillow during breastfeeding, bending her knees if she wants to lift an object instead of bending her back. Any treatment will have little effect if the patient maintains the wrong habits.
Manual therapy and Physiotherapy such as therapeutic massage to dissolve contractures that may develop in the neck and interscapular area. For cervicalgia, the therapy called pumping is also indicated, which consists of pulling on the head, maintaining the tension for at least 30 seconds and slowly releasing it. The effect of this technique is the increase of the intervertebral space. The patient feels a pleasant relaxation and a feeling of lightness in the neck and head.
It can be done from the first treatment session, the first with the passive movement of a physiotherapist, and later, with active exercises of the patient. This method is very effective in the case of herniated cervical pain as this method “pushes” the displaced nucleus pulposus back to its original place and thus helps to reduce compression of the dorsal root. The intervertebral disc will not return at first, but the symptoms can be eliminated.
Neck pain relationship with emotions such as anxiety, stress, tension and anger
In today’s society where stress and anxiety are our constant companions, it is not surprising that cervicalgias have become increasingly common.
Stress and anxiety is reflected in the body in two ways: affecting the gallbladder or on the stomach. When these structures are affected, dorsal stiffness, dorsal pain, as well as blockages in the cervical vertebrae on the left side are generated. If these blockages are maintained for a long time, they can lead to herniated discs. In this link you will find more information about it: Cervicalgia or cervical pain on the left side and its relationship with stress and anxiety .
The anger, the tension and the difficulty of adaptation alters the liver. When the liver is altered, it generates the following symptoms: right dorsal stiffness, right dorsal pain and blockages in the cervical vertebrae in the same area. When the blockage is maintained for a long time, there is a chance that a disc herniation will be generated.
What is the duration of a neck pain?
This is a question that every person who suffers from neck pain asks himself when the first days have passed since the onset of pain and its answer is really difficult (rather impossible) since the time in which this neck pain subsides will depend on many factors, many of which are beyond our control. In this way, the duration of neck pain can range from 24 hours to weeks or even months. In any case, I want to emphasize that under normal conditions they are self-limited processes that tend to resolve themselves in a few days (week) and that if it lasts longer, it will be either because there is some type of element that escapes us or that the classic vicious circle has simply been generated with the (very famous lately) process of central sensitization that prevents pain remission.
- Cervicalgia means neck pain, it is a symptom.
- Rectification of cervical lordosis is one of the most frequent factors.
- A cervical injury such as “Whiplash Syndrome” also causes acute pain.
- Neck pain is associated with dizziness and vertigo .
- Cervicalgia in conjunction with stress and emotions produce tension headache and migraines
- It can be caused by myofascial trigger points.
- In acute case it is commonly called torticollis.
- Cervicalgia can give pain to the arm (Cervicobrachial), to the head causing headaches.
- Neck pain can have many causes and a good diagnosis must be made to find out the cause and tackle the root problem, not treat the symptoms.
- Treatment depends on the cause of the neck pain. Follow the recommendations of your physical therapist.