Causes & Home Treatments For Neck Aches
Neck ache and neck pain can be caused by a variety of injuries to muscles, tendons, ligaments, joints, and cervical discs. Each of these specific tissues create different types of pain. The type of pain symptoms and location helps your provider distinguish the type of injury and therefore the best treatment to reduce your neck pain.
Neck aches can come from mild strains and sprains to the muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Muscles contract to help hold up the head and move the neck joints. Tendons are the specific attachment points of muscles on the bone. They can be damaged and produce tendinitis or tendinosis. Ligaments connect bone to bone and are stabilizing ropes the prevent excessive joint movement. Ligaments also surround the joint capsules and can become stretched and damaged. Damage to cervical discs produces mild pain that begins as stiffness in the neck. This neck ache increases over time to a constant, dull ache. Eventually the neck pain progresses to radiating shoulder and arm pain. In severe cases the pain can reach the hand or fingers.
When people wake up with a neck ache it is often from sleeping incorrectly. The position of their head on the pillow produces stretching and strain on the small muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints in the neck. Small amounts of damage to all of these tissues produce neck aches experienced the next morning. Neck aches are often associated with limited range of motion or movement. Very infrequent episodes of neck aches are often very mild and disappear within a few days with home treatments like neck exercises, stretching, and icing.
When people find they are experiencing neck aches in the morning more frequently each month, then they may have underlying causes that are resulting in the neck pain. These individuals may describe a slight loss in neck range of motion. They may be experiencing more tightness and soreness in their neck and shoulder muscles and have a mild loss of neck muscle flexibility. They may find themselves rubbing their neck and shoulders more often for relief, and some people experience headaches.
If the intensity of the neck ache continues to increase, it may develop into dull and sharp, stabbing neck pain. Higher intensity pain often suggests a more severe injury that may require a different type of treatment. Treatment for neck pain often involves increasing joint range of motion, decreasing muscle spasms, decreasing inflammation, enhancing flexibility, and improving posture.
Joints are weight-bearing structures that are designed to allow movement across the services. These joints can be damaged with acute trauma or injury. They can also be damaged over time with repetitive motions or chronic postures. Mild arthritic symptoms begin as stiffness in the morning or with prolonged sitting. Joint degeneration tends to cause a constant neck ache in the same location on a daily basis. Arthritis often triggers muscle spasms and tightness across the affected joints, which further reduces normal range of motion and muscle flexibility.
More severe cases of arthritis or degeneration may require medication to reduce the pain or inflammation. Many people respond to home treatments and diet modifications to decrease inflammation within the body.
Joint arthritis responds to light motion and movement. Daily neck stretches and exercises tremendously help decrease neck pain and stiffness. With consistent exercising and stretches, the pain decreases to a mild neck ache. The neck ache can disappear or be maintained at controllable levels with home treatments.
When home treatments such as ice, heat, stretching, and exercise cannot decrease neck aches or pains, treatment should be sought from a trained provider experienced with neck pain.
In office treatments are designed to improve the affected tissues that are either causing or contributing to the neck aches and pains. Muscle spasms are one of the most common causes of neck aches and are often a focus in treatment. Massage therapy helps decrease muscle spasms and decrease muscle pain. Massage therapists works through the muscles to decrease spasms and enhance the normal flexibility and function.
Massage should be performed at a comfortable level and intensity. Some people think more is better; however, too aggressive massage therapy on the muscles will actually increase the neck pain and aggravate the injury. Start light and slowly increase the pressure and intensity.
Advanced neck stretching, exercises, and physical therapy improves neck range of motion and flexibility to decrease neck pain. Many people with neck aches do not realize their range of motion and flexibility has decreased over time. A trained therapist will provide specific exercises to enhance flexibility in all of the muscles contributing to the neck pain.
Cold laser therapy is an excellent treatment at decreasing pain, inflammation, and irritation to neck muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joints. Cold lasers utilize specific wavelengths and frequencies to decrease inflammation and enhance cellular repair. Class IV cold laser therapy is an excellent treatment modality for enhancing neck treatment and decreasing neck pain.
Graston technique is an excellent treatment for decreasing muscle adhesions and scar tissue that develop in muscles and tendons. Scar tissue alters the normal movements of muscle and are sources of pain. Graston technique utilizes specific instruments to produce a shearing force across scar tissue to break it up. This triggers the body's reactions and normal repair processes to break up more scar tissue and properly repair muscles and tendons. Graston technique is an excellent treatment option when people describe chronic neck aches or muscle pain across their shoulders. These people often describe knots in the muscles where their neck ache begins. Graston technique effectively reduces the size of these knots and their contribution to neck pain.
Chiropractic is very effective at decreasing neck pain and enhancing joint motion. Chiropractic very specifically adjusts stuck joints which have become damaged and irritated. When joints are not moving, they send pain signals to the brain which we interpret as stiffness, aches, or mild pain. We've all felt the sharp, stabbing pain of a sprain in the neck joint. Every time we tried to look over a shoulder or tip the head back we feel a sharp stab in the spine. Whereas resting the neck or looking the opposite direction helps relieve the symptoms.
Chiropractors have several techniques for adjusting stuck joints. They range from very gentle techniques, such as the Activator Technique. The Activator is a spring-loaded device that taps or nudges the joints to increase motion or movement. People describe a small tapping sensation on the stuck joint.
Thompson drop Technique utilizes specific tables that drop or give way. The table drops to provide a mechanical advantage to push one joint past another. People do not feel any pain or discomfort with this procedure. They often describe hearing only a banging of the table. People who are nervous about having their neck popped or cracked often prefer this type of treatment. Likewise, it is very effective for severe neck sprains and strains that cannot be turned or rotated. Thompson drop technique is also safe and effective on cervical discs and arthritic joints. It does not provide any rotation to the joints and keeps them in a neutral position throughout the adjustment.
Chiropractic manual manipulation is the treatment most people think of chiropractors performing. The chiropractor very specifically locates the source of joint pain and lack of joint movement. With a highly trained procedure and light thrust, one joint is pushed past another to open up the joint space. A clicking or popping sound is often produced when the joint is opened and “unstuck.”
Chiropractic manual manipulation is a very safe and effective procedure for neck aches and pains. Millions of adjustments are performed every day without incident (even though everybody’s uncle’s, brother’s, best friend’s, barber’s favorite butcher knew someone who was seriously hurt… if it was that dangerous wouldn’t everyone know someone and nobody would go?). In fact, numerous studies have shown the effectiveness and safety of chiropractic treatments. Healthcare studies have shown that manipulation provided early in treatment is the most cost-effective therapy for neck pain.
Neck aches and pain can be caused by a variety of injured tissues. Each of these tissues respond to different types of treatment. Home treatments can help decrease muscle pain and inflammation and enhance neck flexibility. For more severe neck aches, in office treatment may be required. These treatments can provide a combination of massage therapy, physical therapy, chiropractic, or muscle therapy to address all of the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and joint injuries.