Approximately 10 percent of the adult population will experience neck pain at any one time. Neck pain is also referred to medically as cervical pain and is caused by a variety of injuries and conditions of the neck. Neck injuries can range from mild to severe and may come on acutely by an accident or chronically from long-term mechanical stress or just average wear and tear. When it comes to the neck, as with many other parts of the body, injury to one part of the neck can often mean damage to other parts of the neck and body. Neck injuries often result in one or several diagnoses including muscle strain, ligament sprain and or disc injury. This is because bones, joints, soft tissue and nerves all work together to hold up the head and perform the specialized functions of the neck. Disorders that cause neck pain include cervical strain, disc herniation, cervical facet-mediated pain, cervical “whiplash” syndrome, and myofascial pain.
Medical conditions that affect the neck (cervical spine) can not only cause extreme pain but also neurological dysfunction. Disorders that can cause neurological effects typically involve some narrowing of the space between the cervical vertebrae. Nerve roots pass through these spaces and when neck injuries affect that space, the nerves may be pinched or stretched causing cervical radiculopathy. When neck injuries affect the nervous system, they can be more complicated to diagnose, treat and cope with than soft tissue trauma or mild to moderate joint injury.
Soft tissue neck injuries include injuries to the muscles of the neck. The cervical and trapezius muscles of the neck function to support and provide movement and alignment for the head and neck. They also serve to protect the spinal cord and spinal nerves when the spinal column is under mechanical stress. One common neck injury is a strain to the muscles that move the neck. A strain is when fibers of the muscle are overstretched and experience micro-tears which can cause inflammation and pain. Symptoms of cervical strains include muscle spasm, reduced flexibility and pain.
If you have suffered a neck injury or neck pain that lasts longer than a week, make an appointment to see a medical professional. The timeliness of care and the type of medical treatment given immediately after the injury are especially critical to recovery and subsequent quality of life.