Neck pain: it’s a real pain in the neck, isn’t it? Bad jokes aside, neck pain is a common problem. A 2012 study found that in the average year, up to one out of five American adults experience discomfort in this area. This might in part be due to how easy it is to stress, strain, or injure your neck. Knowing the five most common causes of neck tension can help you stay healthy and pain-free:
1. Overuse of muscle: Your neck is a remarkably easy part of your body to overwork, especially if you work at a desk. A poorly designed work area forces your neck to stay in an unnatural position for hours on end, causing unnecessary strain. Over time, this can cause chronic neck pain.
2. Injuries: Trauma to the neck muscles can cause pain. One of the most common types of neck trauma chiropractors see is due to traffic accidents. When your head is suddenly forced in a given direction, such as when the car you are sitting in is struck from behind, the following “rebound” motion in the opposition direction (also known as whiplash) injures the tissues in your neck. To help counteract this damage, your neck muscles contract, leaving you feeling stiff and uncomfortable.
3. Poor posture: Do you have perfect posture when reading or watching TV? If you’re like most people, the answer is probably no. Poor posture might feel comfortable in the short term, but in the long run, slouching can cause neck strain and discomfort. If you are obese or have weak abdominal muscles, your neck may bend forward in compensation, disrupting spinal balance and causing pain.
4. Diseases: Certain diseases can cause neck discomfort. Degenerative diseases are a particularly common cause of neck pain. Osteoarthritis, a joint disorder that speeds cartilage deterioration, leads to the formation of painful bone spurs. Degenerative disc disease can lead to bulging or herniated discs, which go on to lead to pain. Meningitis and some types of cancer can also lead to neck pain, but these diseases are less common.
5. Nerve compression: If the nerves in your neck become compressed, neck pain can follow. Herniated discs and bone spurs are two of the most common causes of nerve compression in the neck. A disorder called spinal stenosis can also lead to narrowed nerve passageways, and therefore, painfully trapped nerves.
Treating Neck Pain
Treating chronic neck pain requires understanding the cause of your discomfort. Consult with your general practitioner to rule out any diseases, then visit your chiropractor to find solutions. Your chiropractor might recommend neck adjustments, a precise adjustment to the joints in your neck that improves spinal mobility and range of motion. Chiropractic care is more than just manual adjustments; your chiropractor will work with you to identify lifestyle changes that can help you make sure your neck stays pain-free.
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Neck pain is a common complaint, but in many cases it is avoidable. Take good care of your neck, and you have a good chance of avoiding unnecessary pain.