The vertebrae or bones of the neck connect the spine to the skull and support the head, which weighs about 12 pounds in the adult patient. The neck is the area of the spine with the least amount of support; other areas like the thorax or low back have much bigger muscles and are connected to other bones like the ribs or pelvis. The lack of support and high level of mobility in the neck, coupled with the weight of the head, makes the neck more prone to injury such as whiplash. The neck is also more susceptible to poor body mechanics and poor posture because the weight of the head places stress on the neck muscles.
Injury is one of the most common causes of neck pain. For example, whiplash occurs when the head is thrown forward or back in something like an automobile accident. Falls may cause neck trauma and result in misalignment of the spine. People who have poor posture such as sitting or walking with the head thrust forward can develop neck pain from tense muscles. Thick cushions of cartilage between the neck bones can become worn or bulge into the spinal cord, which can also cause neck pain. Arthritis and bone overgrowth that presses on nerves may result in neck pain.
Neck pain treatment is always related to the cause of the problem. A misalignment can be corrected with chiropractic adjustments, but the precipitating factors must also be dealt with. If poor posture is creating muscle tension and spasm, the patient must learn to correct the postural problems or the pain will recur. Exercises can strengthen and stretch muscles, while massage therapy can relieve spasm and promote relaxation. Once the muscles are relaxed, strong, and properly balanced, pain is often eliminated or greatly reduced.
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