Various research studies have shown that neck pain is one of the top five most common pain conditions from which Americans suffer. As part of a nationwide health survey, the National Institute for Health Statistics (NIHS) and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention published a comprehensive look at the most common pain conditions among Americans. Although low back pain was the most commonly reported pain condition (more than 25 percent of Americans), approximately 15 percent of Americans reported chronic neck pain, which is tied with migraine headaches for the second most commonly reported pain condition.
This same trend holds true for the most common conditions that will bring a patient into Dr. Nathen Horst’s office. According to the American Chiropractic Association (ACA), the leading professional organization for chiropractors, neck pain is the second most common condition that will lead prospective patients to seek out the services of a chiropractor. Of course, not all neck pain is the same, nor does it have the same root cause. This is why it is important for patients to understand what may be causing that annoying pain in the neck.
Types of Neck Pain
According to the ACA, there can be a variety of causes for neck pain. These can include injuries and accidents, degenerative disease (some of which are linked to aging), and physical and emotional stress in daily life.
Injury: The most common form of neck injury is known as whiplash, which is the sudden forceful movement of the head and neck in a given direction and the rebound effect in the other direction. As the head is suddenly forced in one direction, the muscles around the neck will tighten up in an effort to protect the neck and head. This can cause muscle fatigue or sharp pains in the neck. Whiplash is most often due to an automobile accident, but it can also occur in response to an injury suffered when playing contact sports such as football or wrestling.
Degenerative disease: Although most degenerative neck disease is due to aging, it may also be hereditary. Osteoarthritis is probably the most common degenerative disorder that causes neck pain. The cartilage between the vertebrae degenerates, which can affect smooth joint motion. Spinal stenosis occurs when the opening for the nerves leading out from the neck vertebrae narrow, placing pressure on the nerve roots. Disc herniation happens when the elastic discs between the vertebrae become compressed and bulge out. This can cause tingling, numbness, or pain running into the shoulder or arm.
Stress of daily life: Several physical factors can lead to neck pain. These include poor posture, obesity, and weak abdominal muscles. These cause the head and neck to tilt too far forward to compensate. Emotional stress can also cause pain from the neck muscles tensing up as a result of the body’s response to emotional stress or tension.
Although many people are inclined to write off neck pain as just a result of having “slept wrong,” the truth is that there is much more going on. Dr. Horst can help patients get to the root cause of that pain in the neck.