The top section of the spine makes up the neck. This part is also referred to by the anatomical name cervical spine and is prone to injury and subsequent pain and stiffness. The causes of neck pain and its symptoms are many and varied.

What You Need To Know About Your Neck

anatomy of the neck

In the neck, there are 7 bones (vertebrae) referred to as ‘C1’ to ’C7’. The vertebrae are separated by discs, which are soft structures that compress, giving the neck its ability to bend and twist in various directions. Additionally, these discs act as shock absorbers for the vertebrae.

The vertebrae or bones:

  • support the head (or cranium)
  • protect the spinal cord
  • protect the vertebral arteries (which supply blood to the brain)

The spinal cord is protected within the central cavity of each vertebra and at each disc level peripheral nerves branch out from the spinal cord. The nerves are named according to the level at which they exit the spine, eg. C1 to C7 nerve root.

These nerves provide muscle control and sensation to the:

  • head
  • neck
  • arms

What Can Cause Neck and Shoulder Pain

Neck pain occurs when there is damage to any of the delicate neck structures – joints, discs and nerves. These can be damaged by:

  • Trauma – such as a direct hit, (eg a tackle), or excessive strain (eg sleeping upright in a chair) or Whiplash.
  • Poor Posture – this is quickly becoming the most common cause of neck pain, especially with the increased use of computers, laptops, iPads and mobile phones.
  • Repetitive Stress – this occurs when the shoulder muscles work hard or for a prolonged time, gradually causing them to tighten and pull excessively on the neck joints.

Typical Areas Affected By Neck Problems

Injury to joints, discs or nerves in the neck give rise to a variety of symptoms in the:

  • head
  • face
  • neck
  • shoulders
  • arms
  • hands
  • fingers

 

Headaches

While headaches often arise from neck area problems, they can also have vascular (blood supply) and chemical causes. Pain or symptoms experienced in the arm are often due to the injury of neck structures. This is called referred pain.

People who come to see us with neck problems report a variety of symptoms including:

  • pain
  • reduced movement
  • excessive stiffness
  • dizziness
  • altered sensation, such as pins and needles or numbness
  • tightening of the shoulder and upper arm muscles
  • weakness in the hand or arm

 

What You Can Do To Prevent Neck Pain

Many causes of neck pain can be prevented by ensuring:

  • you sit correctly
  • you have a correct set-up of laptop and desk computers
  • you take regular breaks from strenuous tasks
  • you take regular breaks from sitting for long periods
  • you follow a regime of neck exercises during work breaks
  • you avoid falling asleep while sitting
  • you minimise excessive strain on your shoulders
  • you maintain a good posture

 

What To Do If You Have Neck Pain

If you have neck pain, first exclude the common causes listed above. At the same time rest and avoid strenuous work such as heavy gardening and lifting weights. If none of these measures start to settle your pain, come to see us before it intensifies and becomes more difficult and costly to fix.

Contact Us to book your appointment to resolve your neck problem.