Dr. Anderson's Guide to Treating Neck Pain
Neck Pain Introduction
Neck pain is common among adults, but it can occur at any age. In the course of any 3 month timespan, about 15% of U.S. adults have neck pain that lasts at least one full day.
Neck pain can develop suddenly, such as from an injury, or it may develop slowly over time, such as from years of poor posture or wear and tear.
The Most Common Acute Neck Pain Causes
The most common causes of neck pain—muscle/tendon strains and ligament sprains—heal within a few days or weeks. Many cases of strains and sprains result from overuse or overextension, such as:
Poor posture. Long periods of time spent slouched or hunched over a computer screen can lead to forward head posture, which places extra stress on the neck. Repeatedly looking straight down at a phone or tablet, sometimes called text neck. may also cause pain.
Sleeping in an awkward position. If the head is held at a bad angle or twists wrong during the night, a stiff neck might present itself in the morning.
Repetitive motions. Turning the head in a repetitive manner, such as side to side while dancing or swimming, may lead to overuse of the neck’s muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
Trauma. Examples include any type of fall or impact, such as a sports collision or whiplash from an auto accident. Sometimes a muscle strain or spasm is not just a soft tissue injury. In some cases, a problem in the cervical spine could be causing a neck muscle to spasm in response.
Sometimes a muscle strain or spasm is not just a soft tissue injury. In some cases, a problem in the cervical spine could be causing a neck muscle to spasm in response.
The Most Common Chronic Neck Pain Causes
When neck pain lasts or keeps coming back over a period of several months, it is typically due to spinal degeneration from wear-and-tear over time:
Cervical degenerative disc disease. All discs gradually lose hydration and the ability to cushion the spine’s vertebrae over time. If a disc degenerates enough, for some people it can lead to pain in various ways, such as a herniated disc, pinched nerve, or changes in the facet joints that can cause osteoarthritis.
Cervical osteoarthritis. When the cartilage in a cervical facet joint wears down enough, it can lead to cervical osteoarthritis. Cervical osteoarthritis is one of the most common causes of chronic neck pain.
Cervical herniated disc. When an intervertebral disc’s protective outer layer (annulus fibrosus) partially or completely tears, some of the jelly-like inner layer (nucleus pulposus) may leak and cause inflammation and pain.
As spinal degeneration progresses, there is an increased risk for a narrowing of the foramen (cervical foraminal stenosis) and/or the spinal canal (cervical central stenosis). If the nerve root and/or spinal cord becomes impinged, pain, tingling, numbness, and/or weakness may radiate into the arms or legs.
Other Neck Pain Causes
Other causes of neck pain could include:
Emotional stress. Stress, anxiety, and low social support have all been linked as potential causes or contributors to neck pain.
Myofascial pain syndrome. This chronic condition has trigger points, which result from achy muscles and surrounding connective tissues, typically in the upper back or neck. Trigger points can be chronically painful or acutely tender to the touch. The pain might stay in one spot or it can be referred pain that spreads to/from another area in the body.
Fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is hard to diagnose, but it typically involves pain in the muscles, tendons, and ligaments in all four quadrants of the body, including the neck.
Common Neck Pain Signs and Symptoms
Neck pain usually involves one or more of the following symptoms and signs:
Stiff neck. Soreness and difficulty moving the neck, especially when trying to turn the head from side to side.
Sharp pain. This pain may be localized to one spot and might feel like it is stabbing or stinging. This type of pain typically occurs in the lower neck.
General soreness. This discomfort is typically felt in a broader area or region of the neck. It is described as tender or achy, not sharp.
Radicular pain. This pain can radiate along a nerve from the neck into the shoulder and arm. The intensity can vary, and this nerve pain might feel like it is burning or searing.
Cervical radiculopathy. Neurological deficits—such as problems with reflexes, sensation, or strength—may be experienced in the arm due to nerve root compression. Cervical radiculopathy may also be accompanied by radicular pain.
Trouble with gripping or lifting objects. This problem can happen if numbness or weakness goes into the arm or fingers.
Headaches. Sometimes an irritation in the neck can affect muscles and nerves connected to the head. Some examples include tension headache, cervicogenic headache, and occipital neuralgia.
Onset of Neck Pain Symptoms
Neck pain typically develops in one of the following ways:
Slowly over time. Neck pain might start out as mild or only occur toward the end of a workday, but then it might recur and get worse with time.
Immediately following an injury. For instance, neck pain could start right after a bike accident or having slept awkwardly on the neck.
Delayed reaction after an injury. Neck sprain symptoms, such as after a car accident, might begin hours or a few days after the injury occurred. Some neck injuries can get worse over time.
Suddenly without any prior signs. Sometimes neck pain can start in the middle of a normal day for no apparent reason.
Neck pain symptoms might be constant, may resolve quickly, may come and go regularly, or may
return intermittently. Certain activities or movements, such as sneezing or coughing, could make the
Most people will hope the pain goes away at this point and might not do much about it, hoping it
will just go away. If the pain lasts long enough, the injured person will start to avoid certain
movements and activities, fearing the pain will aggravate the movement.
When neck pain does not improve after a few days or weeks, some chiropractic or acupuncture care
is likely needed to alleviate symptoms. Getting an accurate diagnosis for the cause of neck pain will
help set up a more effective treatment plan. If you are suffering from neck pain, now is the time to
come in and get diagnosed and treated.
Nancy's Neck vs. The Computer
Desk jobs can cause more pain than you think, but Nancy was just one adjustment away from beating her tension.
Nancy sat at her office desk slumped over her mouse, staring blankly at the screen. Her neck felt tight, and she could feel a knot between her shoulders. She rolled her head around a little, hoping it would pop, then reminded herself to sit up straight. A few minutes later she'd forget and naturally sink into her usual posture.
It seemed like every click of the mouse irritated the sore spot in her neck. She took a few acetaminophen hoping to get through the next few hours without getting a headache.
"It seemed like every click of the mouse irritated the sore spot in her neck."
Nancy's coworker, Scott, stopped by to ask some questions about a project they were working on together. After a few minutes, Nancy winced at the pain and tried to pop her neck again.
"Nancy, it seems like your neck is really hurting you. Have you ever gotten adjusted?"
Nancy wasn't really sure what her coworker meant so he explained further. A chiropractor would be able to adjust her neck to relieve the tension and pain.
"I wouldn't be able to work this desk job without my chiropractor, my neck gets so tight from typing and clicking all day," Scott said, handing her a business card.
Nancy noticed that Scott's chiropractor had a walk-in clinic nearby that was open after she got off work. On her way home, Nancy decided to stop in for an adjustment.
"'I wouldn't be able to work this desk job without my chiropractor, my neck gets so tight from typing and clicking all day.'"
After evaluating her condition, the chiropractor explained he would perform manual manipulations and use an instrument called an activator to help the muscles release.
The chiropractor popped Nancy's neck a few times, and she couldn't believe how quickly it resolved the pain. Nancy was finally pain free.
The next day at the office, Nancy felt significantly more productive and happier. She could avoid the acetaminophen, and her neck would actually pop when she tried. The tension keeping it locked up was gone.
Scott stopped by Nancy's desk and noticed the improvement in her mood, "You made it over to the chiropractor, didn't you?"
Nancy smiled and told him all about her great experience at the chiropractor. She thanked him for the referral and let him know she'd definitely be by again next time her desk job caused her neck pain.
I have seen Dr. Anderson for 6 visits and have been headache free and neck/back pain is 90% improved. I did not want any heavy manipulation which he is able to accommodate without a problem. There is no vitamin pushing, multi-visit plans, or purchases of any kind pushed. I come in according to my own needs. There are some walk-in times and prices are reasonable. Professional and knowledgeable - he determine what you need without x-rays.