Upper Back and Neck Pain
When you think about what the neck has to do with the little it has to do it with it’s not surprising that it commonly is injured. The neck needs to twist and constantly move and there can’t have large muscles supporting it. So when it comes to supporting the 15 pounds of your head on top of it extra care needs to be taken to prevent injury.
Your neck also has one important part running through it as well and that’s the spinal cord. The spinal cord runs down through the center of your vertebrae and from that nerves branch off between the spaces to send signals all over the body. Pain in your hand could very well be from a pinched nerve at the spine and mistaken for carpal tunnel syndrome. Since the neck has such little support neck pain can often cause pain in other parts of the body.
Neck pain can also create headaches, muscle spasms in the upper back and shoulders, ringing in the ears, inflammation in the middle ear, TMJ, and even restricted movement and tightness. Problems with the neck can even cause issues in the trapezius, levator scapulae, cervical paraspinal muscles and scalene since they all originate in the neck.
Causes of Upper Back and Neck Pain
Unfortunately, there is not one cause of the pain and is often a mixture of many. Poor posture, subluxations, mental stress, and disc problems are just a few of the causes.
The most common cause, however, is injury such as sudden whipping motions of the head in an accident known as whiplash. This commonly happens in car accidents and physical sports like football. The sudden and violent stretching and compression of the supporting muscles, tendons, and ligaments in the neck and upper back causes stress and damage. This pain can often not be felt for weeks and therefore one should see a chiropractor in the case where they think they have experienced whiplash to prevent further damage. If not properly cared for the effects of whiplash can be felt years after the initial injury. A herniated disc can happen during whiplash as well and is another reason one should seek proper car immediately.
Poor posture also can lead to pain in the neck and upper back. This usually happens over time and the tightening of the muscles start to cause subluxations in the spine causing pain. Those that read or work on the computer all day tend to lean forward, causing what is called forward head posture (FHP). Keeping the head in a neutral position, the arms and shoulders supported, and knees relaxed will help to keep the rest of the body in line, preventing the undue stress on the body.
Poor posture, however, is not the only cause for subluxations and therefore pain in the neck and upper back. The weight of your head resting causes constant energy spent in the neck to support it and create subluxations in four main areas of the neck.
- The top of the cervical spine.
- Middle of the cervical spine where the majority of the work is done to support the head.
- Where the cervical and thoracic areas of the spine meet.
- The middle of the thoracic spine which is responsible for supporting much of the weight of the upper body.
Luckily subluxations can be checked for by yourself and the help of a friend. Check for unevenness in the shoulders or if your head is tilted to one side when you feel relaxed. Also, you can have a friend look at you from the side and see if your head is forward of your shoulders which is also a sign. Subluxations should be corrected by a chiropractor as soon as possible as extended lengths of misalignments can cause severe damage.
Another main cause is stress. Stress does a great job at making its way into your life and wreaks havoc on the body. Mental and emotional stress can cause tension in the neck and upper back. Muscle guarding is a part of our fight or flight response and can happen when the face potentially can be harmed and can cause problems over an extended period of time. Stress can cause tightness and trigger points in the trapezius, which can be felt when pinching the back together. Exercise and breathing techniques can help combat stress and should be performed daily or after a stressful situation.
Anytime someone experiences chronic pain in the neck or upper back chiropractic care should be the first step towards relieving that pain promptly and properly.
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