Neck pain plagues us all. Whether we sit at a desk all day long or perform as a high functioning athlete, we all experience neck pain at one point in life. There are a dozen reasons as to why we experience neck pain. They can range from underlying conditions such as arthritis, biomechanical and postural inconsistencies, or you just slept on the couch wrong and kinked your neck. This first part of the series, we will start by looking at the general anatomy of the neck and the movement.
Anatomy of the neck
At its core, the neck is comprised of seven cervical vertebrae that house your nerves which innervate specific areas of your body. You can think of these bones as your car frame and the nerves as your electrical wiring for everything else. Between each bone you have discs that serve to function as shock absorbers and cushioning between those joints. These discs can be comparable to your car shocks that help whenever it runs over bumps. Layers of muscles, ligaments and other supportive structures serve to move the head and stabilize the joints between. Ligaments serve to provide support to structures, while muscles also act to stabilize and move the neck and shoulder in certain directions.
There are many muscles which range from being thin and small, to larger and thicker muscles. Most of these muscles either aim to 1) stabilize and/or 2) produce movements. The neck is able to produce movements of flexion (chin to chest), extension (chin to the sky), lateral flexion (ear to shoulder) and lateral rotation (chin to shoulder).
A quick check of how your neck is can be as simple as performing these movements and looking at how balanced each side is along with if you experience any pain local or away from the neck. Give it a try!
We experience pain whenever the body fails to balance the forces on our neck due to posture, or there is some underlying cause. Typically, as therapists we look at your signs and symptoms in addition to if there is pain with active or passive neck movement. All of the observations we make help us play detective to determine what exactly is the root cause of neck pain.
In our next post, we will look at some of the major muscles that we all have struggles with. We will go over some ways to stretch these muscles and exercise them. Till next time!
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