Upper Back and Neck Pain
Neck pain is indeed a common problem that sports medicine doctors frequently encounter. While traumatic injuries, such as direct impacts to the head or neck during sports like hockey, can certainly lead to neck pain, posture-related issues are also a significant cause.
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Sports Medicine Physician, discusses common causes of neck pain.
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Chiropractor, discusses neck pain due to incorrect posture from sitting at an office desk.
Common Causes of Neck Pain
Neck pain is indeed a common problem that sports medicine doctors often deal with. While traumatic injuries, such as those occurring in sports like hockey, can certainly lead to neck pain, many cases of neck pain are actually related to poor posture.
In today's modern lifestyle, where people spend long hours sitting at desks, looking down at their smartphones or tablets, or engaging in activities that strain the neck, poor posture has become a significant contributing factor to neck pain. The neck is a delicate structure, and prolonged periods of improper positioning can lead to muscle imbalances, joint dysfunction, and ultimately, pain.
When the head is constantly held forward, as in the case of hunched or slouched posture, it places excessive strain on the muscles and ligaments of the neck. This can lead to muscle tension, stiffness, and discomfort. Over time, the repeated stress on the neck can contribute to the development of conditions like cervical spondylosis or degenerative disc disease, which may exacerbate the pain further.
To address neck pain related to poor posture, it's important to focus on improving ergonomics and practicing good posture habits. This includes maintaining a neutral spine while sitting or standing, keeping the head aligned with the shoulders, and avoiding prolonged periods of static positioning. Regular breaks to stretch and perform neck exercises can help relieve muscle tension and improve flexibility.
Sports medicine doctors and other healthcare professionals specializing in musculoskeletal health can provide guidance on proper posture, recommend exercises and stretches, and may suggest additional treatments like physical therapy, massage, or pain medications depending on the severity of the condition.
It's worth noting that while posture-related neck pain is common, it's always essential to consult with a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and personalized treatment plan. Other underlying factors or injuries may contribute to neck pain, and a thorough evaluation can help identify and address those issues effectively.
So imagine this is a lower back model but looks very much like the neck. If this is you facing forwards, then those joints are in here, and they’re called facette or facet joints because they’re flat like the facet of a diamond.
As you tilt your head forward, those joints open, but as you tilt your head back, the joints close, and that applies pressure to the joints, and that can lead to inflammation and pain. In some patients, it’s the consequence of sitting at a desk all day.
Typically, when people have poor posture they get their head moving forward, and so this causes the joints to pushed up against one another. So sitting like this all day in front of a computer, for example, can create a lot of pain in the neck.
In the case of people who have a neck trauma where, for example, someone’s cross-checked on the ice, or they’re tackling, and the head makes contact with the opponent player, those kinds of hyperextension injuries can actually lead to fractures of the neck also.
In cases of facet injuries where there is pain without a fracture, the initial treatment typically involves conservative measures such as:
Ice: Applying ice packs to the affected area can help reduce inflammation and alleviate pain. It is recommended to use ice for about 15-20 minutes every few hours, especially during the first 48-72 hours after the injury.
Anti-inflammatories: Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen or naproxen can help reduce pain and inflammation. However, it's important to consult a healthcare professional before taking any medication to ensure it is safe for you and to determine the appropriate dosage.
Physiotherapy: Physical therapy plays a crucial role in the management of facet injuries. A qualified physical therapist can guide you through exercises and techniques that promote healing, improve flexibility, and strengthen the surrounding muscles. They may use modalities such as ultrasound, heat therapy, or electrical stimulation to complement the treatment.
Additionally, as you mentioned, maintaining good upright posture is essential. Proper posture helps relieve pressure on the facet joints and reduces the risk of aggravating the injury. Ergonomic adjustments at work or during daily activities may be necessary to support good posture.
However, it is crucial to pay attention to any accompanying neurological symptoms, such as numbness or tingling radiating down the arm or hand. These symptoms may indicate nerve compression due to inflammation around the facet joints. If such symptoms are present, it is advisable to seek medical attention promptly as they could signify a more serious problem requiring further evaluation and treatment, which may include additional imaging studies, referral to a specialist, or other interventions.
Remember, it is always best to consult with a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis and personalized treatment plan based on your specific condition and symptoms.
That type of problem typically happens more often the older we get because those joints get built up a little bit through the process of osteoarthritis. So we build up excess bone which then makes the opening for the nerve in the neck smaller, and it makes it easier to pinch the nerve. Often seeing a local family physician or a physiotherapist in conjunction with a registered dietitian and athletic therapist is a great option to take control of this condition. Smart Food Now and exercise is also optominal for overall health. If you think you have a facet joint problem in your neck, or have any questions, you could consult a physiotherapist or a sports medicine doctor.
Poor posture, especially when sustained for long periods, can place excessive strain on the neck muscles, ligaments, and joints. It can lead to muscle imbalances, joint dysfunction, and even structural changes over time. Activities that involve prolonged sitting or repetitive motions, such as computer work or driving, often contribute to postural issues and subsequent neck pain.
Common postural factors that may contribute to neck pain include:
Forward head posture: This occurs when the head protrudes forward, causing increased stress on the neck and upper back muscles.
Rounded shoulders: Slouching or rounded shoulders can result in the forward displacement of the shoulders and upper spine, leading to strain in the neck and upper back.
Excessive screen time: Frequent use of electronic devices, such as smartphones and tablets, often encourages poor neck posture, as people tend to hunch over these devices.
Improper ergonomics: Using poorly designed workstations, chairs, or pillows can contribute to maintaining an unhealthy posture and increase the risk of neck pain.
Sports medicine doctors often address neck pain caused by posture-related issues through a comprehensive approach, which may include:
Education: Providing information about correct posture and ergonomic principles to improve body mechanics during activities of daily living, including work and sports.
Physical therapy: Recommending exercises and stretches to strengthen the neck and upper back muscles, improve flexibility, and correct postural imbalances.
Manual therapy: Employing techniques such as mobilizations, manipulations, and soft tissue therapies to alleviate pain, improve joint mobility, and address muscle imbalances.
Ergonomic modifications: Assessing and suggesting appropriate adjustments to workstations, seating, and other relevant factors to optimize posture and reduce strain on the neck.
Pain management: Prescribing pain-relieving medications or using other modalities like heat/cold therapy or electrical stimulation to manage acute or chronic pain.
Lifestyle modifications: Encouraging individuals to adopt healthy lifestyle habits, including regular exercise, stress reduction, and adequate rest, which can contribute to improved posture and overall well-being.
It's important to consult with a sports medicine doctor or a healthcare professional who specializes in neck pain to receive a proper diagnosis and personalized treatment plan based on the underlying cause and individual circumstances.