A Pain in the Neck?

Some causes of neck pain and how an osteopath can help.

Neck Strain Causes

The majority of people that consult an Osteopath present with neck pain that is usually caused by a strain. The cardinal sign of a strain is typically pain. Similarly to lower back pain, it is often a result of many factors as opposed to one traumatic event. To understand the development of a musculoskeletal dysfunction, picture a large pane of glass. Think of bad posture or repetitive activities as a pebble being thrown against this pane. One pebble thrown will not cause much damage, the more pebbles that are thrown however, the weaker the pane becomes till finally after many pebbles have been thrown, it will crack and break. Although our bodies are extremely resilient, over time the combination of factors will prove too much and dysfunction and pain are likely to occur. So what factors can predispose the neck to considerable strain and pain?

    • Abnormal postures. Some people are prone to bouts of neck strain due to sleeping in an awkward position. These can be quite severe and disabling but luckily resolve relatively quickly.

Repetitive strain. Occupations that require repetitive movements or prolonged sitting. This repetitive motion causes micro-trauma. Think of a painter who constantly has his head in an extended position. Over the last 30 years, a new kind of repetitive strain has been found in office workers, known as “desk disease”. Sitting for prolonged periods staring at a computer screen that is unlikely positioned at the correct height coupled with a phone that’s being cradled in the person’s shoulder for the majority of the day and you can see how easy this could develop and manifest into pain. The stretches presented at the end of this article are extremely beneficial for those whose occupations demand that they must spend the majority of their day in this position.

  • Motor vehicle accidents can cause violent jerking of the head into hyper-extension, or hyper- flexion. A common scenario is when a seat-belted person’s head continues to move forward during a frontal impact and is then often thrown backward (the converse is also true). Side impacts typically result in bending of the head to that side, and rear impact tends to throw the head backward. Any or all of these movements usually result in whiplash.
  • Stress and emotional factors are a very common but an often overlooked cause of cervical pain. The physiological aspects of stress can predispose the entire body and especially the musculoskeletal system to a wide range of problems. Stress can cause the prolonged activation of muscle leading to shortening of the muscles, the formation of trigger points or tight bands within the muscle fibers. When people feel stressed they literally feel the “weight of the world” on their shoulders.
How Back In Health Osteopathy can help?

The aim of Osteopathic treatment is to reduce muscle spasm or guarding in the affected muscles. Guarding is the body’s natural response to injury and trauma. The surrounding muscles become tight in an effort to prevent any further damage to the affected joint. Once the muscles are relaxed, it is easier to then treat the underlying joint dysfunction. On initial presentation, the area may be too tender to even perform basic soft tissue massage. In this case, acupuncture or dry needling is warranted to reduce muscle spasm and to assist in returning normal range of motion in the cervical spine.

Once any local inflammation has gone down, there are numerous techniques that an Osteopaths utilizes in treatment. Gentle stretching, manipulation and resistive stretching therapy (Muscle energy technique).

If you have neck and back pain, don’t put treatment off any longer. Our aim is to get you back in health, and stay there! Melbourne CBD (Rialto), Clifton Hill, and Fitzroy.

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