Cervicalgia, or neck pain, is very detrimental to your quality of life, especially if it causes headaches, muscle spasms or even numbness. A variety of healthcare professionals can help relieve your neck pain and accompanying symptoms as well as prevent their recurrence.
Why do you experience neck pain?
Neck pain can be caused by a sudden injury, such as a blow to the head, a fall, or an awkward move. It can also occur over time, if you often maintain the same posture or if you make repetitive movements with your neck or with your arms over your head.
In addition to pain, other symptoms of neck pain include stiffness, muscle tension, torticollis, headache, numbness, etc. The pain can spread to your upper back, shoulder, arm, hand and even into your fingers.
Primary causes of neck pain
Many diagnoses are associated with neck pain. Consulting a physiotherapist will help you fully understand the structures affected and how to promote their healing.
How do you know if you have whiplash?
Whiplash is the stretching or tearing of the ligaments that connect the vertebrae in the neck. The muscles that connect the head and neck to the rest of the spine can also be affected.
Symptoms of whiplash include neck pain or stiffness, muscle spasms, headaches, and in some cases loss of strength, decreased sensitivity, numbness or burning sensations in the arms.
A whiplash injury can be caused by a whiplash per se, a blow to the head, an awkward movement or prolonged and inadequate neck posture (during sleep for example).
How do you recognize cervicobrachalgia?
Cervicobrachalgia is a pain in the arm that begins in the neck. When the root of a nerve is irritated or compressed in the neck, the symptoms follow the nerve’s path down the arm.
The pain associated with cervicobrachalgia can be sharp or diffuse and extend to the shoulder, arm and fingertips. It is usually described as a feeling of heaviness, numbness or tingling that increases when moving your arms above your head. The pain may only ever manifest in the arm without any pain in the neck.
Cervicobrachalgia can be caused by an accident, repetitive movements with your arms above your head, an awkward neck posture, or compression of the area above the collarbone (if you often carry a bag over your shoulder with a strap that is too thin, for example). It can be associated with a herniated disc, osteoarthritis or whiplash. Muscle tension in the neck or upper back can also contribute to the onset of symptoms.
What are the symptoms of whiplash?
Whiplash is not a diagnosis, but rather a mechanism of injury. It describes a movement of the neck in acceleration and deceleration at high speed during a rear or side impact. Whiplash most often occurs during a motor vehicle collision, but it can also happen as a result of a fall, a dive, a sports accident, etc.
This type of movement can cause bone or soft tissue injuries associated with whiplash, and then lead to a variety of symptoms including neck pain or stiffness, headaches, jaw pain, arm pain or numbness, dizziness, etc.
What are the pains associated with a herniated cervical disc?
A herniated disc is not always painful. A large part of the population lives with bulging or herniated discs between their vertebrae without being affected or sometimes without even knowing it! When symptoms do occur, they vary from person to person. You may feel pain or numbness in your neck, upper back, in one arm, or both. This pain can vary throughout the day. It may increase when sitting, when your head is tilted forwards or backwards, during movements that use your neck muscles or when you cough or sneeze.
Very often, a herniated cervical disc is not the result of a particular event, but rather of an accumulation of awkward neck postures (such as keeping your head forward or leaning forward, hunching your upper back, etc.). An accident, an awkward move or a fall becomes less the cause and more the element that triggers the pain the first time.
A herniated disc occurs when the disc partially “pops out” of its location between each vertebra of the spine (which serves to absorb shocks and vibrations). Symptoms most often occur when it irritates or compresses surrounding nerve roots.
What are the symptoms of cervical spondylosis?
Cervical osteoarthritis is the wear and tear of the neck’s vertebrae cartilage. It is a normal aging process that does not always cause symptoms. When they do occur, the most common symptoms are discomfort, stiffness, and pain in the neck that may radiate to the shoulder blade, upper back, or arms. The pain may increase when you turn your head sideways, tilt it back, or hold your chin forward. Severe neck stiffness in the morning can be a sign of cervical osteoarthritis.
How is neck pain treated?
Expert tip: Keep active
Keeping active is the best way to treat neck pain. Physical activity helps maintain neck mobility, reduce pain, and minimize the stress of injury to the brain. Heed your symptoms so you know when to stop. It’s normal to feel a little pain, but when it increases, it’s a sign that you need to take a break.
Cardiorespiratory activities (walking, cycling, elliptical, etc.) and exercises targeting mobility, strengthening and flexibility of the neck enable faster recovery and prevent future painful episodes.
Which professional should you consult?
Various professionals often work together to maximize results. If in doubt, we recommend that you first consult a physiotherapist so that they can assess your needs and the treatments required for the specific condition of your neck. If necessary, they will recommend other professional(s) you should consult to optimize your rehabilitation.
Why consult a physiotherapist?
After a thorough evaluation of your neck, a physiotherapist will explain which structures are affected and offer you a treatment plan based on your goals. Different options can be considered such as exercises specific to your condition, joint mobilizations, muscle relaxation techniques, etc. Your physiotherapist will also give you advice on how to relieve pain and how to resume your activities.
Why consult an occupational therapist?
An occupational therapist will assess the impact of your neck’s condition on your usual abilities such as working, doing household chores and hobbies. Their treatments, which can take the form of strengthening exercises or simulating work tasks, for example, will help you maximize your autonomy at each stage of your recovery.
Why consult an osteopath?
Using different manual techniques, an osteopath will treat mobility restrictions that can affect all of your body’s structures (bones, muscles, ligaments, viscera, etc.) related to your neck. Improved mobility helps your body recover better and reduces pain.
hy consult a massage therapist?
A massage therapist will focus primarily on releasing tension in the superficial and deep tissues that affect your neck to help you reduce pain and move more freely. Their treatments will also help increase blood circulation to promote better recovery.
Why consult an acupuncturist?
Through various techniques and using therapeutic tools such as needles and suction cups, an acupuncturist will work to reduce pain, stress, muscle tension and inflammation that can occur following a neck injury.
Why consult a kinesiologist?
A kinesiologist will teach you how to do some modified exercises, in connection with their assessment of your ability to move your neck and your physical condition, so that you can resume your activities.