Logo Logo Logo Logo Logo

Neck

Arthritis

Arthritis is inflammation of one or more joints.  The most common type of arthritis is osteoarthritis and involves wear-and-tear damage to the joint’s cartilage.  Cartilage normally protects a joint, allowing it to move smoothly, and provides shock absorption when pressure is placed on the joint, such as when walking.  If enough of the cartilage degenerates, it can result in bone grinding on bone, which can cause pain, inflammation, stiffness and restricted movement.  This wear and tear can occur over many years, or it can be triggered by a joint injury or infection.

Arthritis often causes pain during movement.  In order to avoid the pain, many individuals will avoid movement of the arthritic joint.  Unfortunately, lack of movement in the joints can make the condition worse.  Joints were meant to move!  Movement helps to flush out inflammation, lubricate the joints, and condition the muscles.    Successful treatment to help manage arthritis involves maintaining strong muscles, joint mobility, flexibility, endurance, and a healthy weight – all of which can be accomplished through conservative treatment.

Burners and Stingers

Burners and stingers are common injuries in contact sports.   A burner or a stinger is an injury to the brachial plexus, the nerve supply of the upper arm, either at the neck or shoulder.  This often happens when the head is forcefully pushed sideways and down, or twisted.  This bends the neck and compresses, or pinches, the surrounding nerves.  The injury is named for the stinging or burning pain that spreads from the base of the skull, to the shoulder or along the neck and to the hand.  This can feel like an electric shock or lightning bolt down the arm.

Cervical Disc Herniation

A disc herniation is a rupture of the disc material between the bones of the spine (vertebra).   A spinal disc is a pad that serves as a cushion between each vertebra.  Discs are designed like jelly donuts, with a softer center encased within a tougher exterior.  A herniated disc, sometimes called a slipped or ruptured disc, occurs when some of the softer "jelly" pushes out through a crack in the tougher exterior.
 
Cervical Herniation Image
A cervical disc herniation may originate from trauma or injury to the cervical spine, but symptoms often start spontaneously.  Arm pain from a cervical herniated disc results because the herniated disc material pinches or presses on a cervical nerve, causing pain to radiate along the nerve pathway down the arm. Along with the pain, numbness and tingling can be present down the arm and into the fingertips.  Muscle weakness may also be present.

Symptoms: A cervical herniated disc will typically cause pain patterns and neurological deficits as follows:

  • C5 (C5 nerve root): Can cause weakness in the deltoid muscle in the upper arm. Does not usually cause numbness or tingling. Can cause shoulder pain.
  • C6 (C6 nerve root): Can cause weakness in the biceps (muscles in the front of the upper arms) and wrist extensor muscles. Numbness and tingling along with pain can radiate to the thumb side of the hand. This is one of the most common levels for a cervical disc herniation to occur.
  • C7 (C7 nerve root): Can cause weakness in the triceps (muscles in the back of the upper arm and extending to the forearm) and the finger extensor muscles. Numbness and tingling along with pain can radiate down the triceps and into the middle finger. This is also one of the most common levels for a cervical disc herniation.
  • T1 (C8 nerve root): Can cause weakness with handgrip. Numbness, tingling and pain can radiate down the arm to the little finger side of hand.

Mechanical Neck Pain

Mechanical neck pain refers to pain related to the structure of the neck and occurs when one of the joints in the cervical spine loses its normal joint mobility (resiliency and shock absorption). When a joint develops dysfunction, its normal movement may be affected and a vicious cycle of muscle imbalance and muscle pain emerges. The loss of joint mobility can cause abnormal signals to the nervous system (there are an abundance of nerve receptors in the joint). The muscles related to that joint can subsequently become tense or, conversely, underactive. This muscle imbalance can place increased stress on the joint, aggravating the joint dysfunction that already exists, resulting in pain and further dysfunction.

Whiplash

Whiplash – Whiplash is a sudden, moderate-to-severe strain affecting the bones, discs, muscles, nerves, or tendons of the neck. Most cases of whiplash are the result of car accidents or collisions during contact sports. When an unexpected force jerks the head back and then forward, the bones of the neck snap out of position and irritated nerves can interfere with flow of blood and transmission of nerve impulses. Whiplash can also irritate the muscles, tendons and ligaments that support the neck. The forces involved in whiplash injuries can be great enough to result in a loss of the normal curve of the cervical spine, or even reversing the curve, and can cause a number of symptoms including:

  • Pain or stiffness in the neck, jaw, shoulders, or arms
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Numbness or tingling in an arm or hand
  • Nausea and vomiting

Cervical Kyphosis

Cervical kyphosis, sometimes called military neck, occurs when the normal curve of the neck begins to straighten.  Cervical kyphosis can progress to the point where the curve in the neck actually reverses, going in the opposite direction from its normal state, aptly called a reverse curve.  A loss of the cervical curve results in a forward head posture, which can limit movement and cause pain.  

In order to maintain a normal curve in the neck, all the cervical structures (vertebrae, discs, muscles, tendons and ligaments) must be strong and healthy.  Damage to any of these structures can lead to cervical kyphosis.  Damage can be caused by traumatic injuries, such as whiplash or fractures, or can occur more slowly over time, such as poor posture, disc degeneration or arthritis. Conservative treatment can be very effective in alleviating the symptoms associated with a loss of the cervical curve, and may also be helpful in restoring the normal curve.