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3 Types Of Neck Pain

Understanding The Cause or Mechanism Involved In Creating Neck Pain Is The First Step To Getting Rid Of It.

Neck pain can have a number of 'causes' which include postural stress, injuries, and the 'unknown origin' variety. Understanding the mechanism that has created your pain will help to guide you on your quest to both get rid of it and avoid it in the future.

The three types of neck pain are:

#1- Robot Neck

#2 - Injury Neck

#3 - Computer Neck

Neck Pain Number 1 - Robot Neck

This is the type of neck pain that pretty much everybody has experienced in their lives.

The typical scenario goes something like this... You go to bed one night and everything is fine. When you wake up the morning you can't move your head without severe pain and you spend the rest of the day walking around like a robot.

How Can This Be? What The heck Did I Do?

These are usually the questions you immediately begin to ask yourself. How is it possible that you can go to bed with no pain and wake up with severe pain? People typically want to blame their pillow, their bed, their spouse, anything.

The truth is, there isn't anything or anyone to blame. This is one of those 'things' that happens to us humans and nobody has a real answer for the WHY.

There have been studies that have linked this phenomenon to sleeping with a fan on or a window open, but at the end of the day nobody knows for certain what cause Robot Neck.

The Good News About ROBOT NECK

The good news here is that this type of neck pain is typically self limiting. Meaning, regardless of what you do, Robot Neck will typically go away on its own within a day or two.

Neck Pain Type #2 - Injury Neck

This type of neck pain is the most serious of the three and is caused by some sort of trauma including car accidents, sports injuries, falls, etc.

Neck pain from an injury can be sneaky because many times the onset of pain doesn't seem to match up with the injury itself. A common example of this phenomenon is when someone gets into a car accident or has an injury and initially they feel fine. Then, sometimes days or weeks later, they start experiencing pain.

The reason neck pain from an injury is more serious is because there is often associated injury to the soft tissues of the neck. The soft tissues include the muscles, tendons, ligaments, and nerves. Although these soft tissue injuries can cause tremendous pain, many times they will not show up on X-rays or even MRIs which can delay proper diagnosis and treatment.

This type of neck pain should almost always be evaluated by a professional that is trained to examine the spine and soft tissues from a structural and functional perspective.

Obviously nobody intends to get injured or get into a car accident, so prevention really isn't a strategy here. The best course of action when dealing with the 'Injured Neck' is to make sure it heals properly.

As with any injury, your body will heal. It's not really a question of wether it will heal but the real question is wether or not it heals properly and completely.

After an injury that involves the neck there are two main outcomes you want in healing in order to NOT having long lasting pain.

Outcome ONE is that the Range Of Motion gets fully restored and outcome TWO is that scar tissue formation is kept to a minimum and/or hopefully kept to zero.

The reason Chiropractic care is the 'go to' for many people following an injury to the neck is that it's the most effective way to restore the range of motion to the injured area. Having good motion in the spine allows the muscles, tendons, ligaments, etc. to heal properly and it helps to decrease and or eliminate the formation of scar tissue.

Neck Pain #3 - Computer Neck

Computer Neck is caused by postural stress from sitting and looking at a computer monitor, reading, sewing, etc. for prolonged periods of time.

Any type of prolonged activity where the head is forward or looking down will produce a constant strain on the Posterior (back of the neck) muscles and eventually lead to pain.

Often associated with Computer Neck is a stress headache which typically builds from the base of the neck or skull and radiates toward the front of the head or eyes.

Preventing Computer Neck is simple and has little to do with Ergonomics, standing vs. sitting desk, glasses, fancy monitors or anything.

The only real way to prevent Computer Neck from happening is to prevent Tissue Creep.

What Is Tissue Creep?

Creep is the word used to describe the way our soft tissues adapt to stress, strain, and positions. An extreme example of this is Neck Elongation where many ancient cultures would put metal rings around their neck and gradually add more over time elongating the neck. The reason that Neck Elongation worked is because of Tissue Creep.

Neck Elongation is an extreme example of Tissue Creep but it hepls to understand what happens. If you're hunched over a computer, or sewing, or anything that puts your neck in a bad posture, eventually your muscles and tendons will begin to change and adapt to that posture. Overtime this will result in constant pain, headaches, and a 'Hunchback of Notre Dame' looking spine.

Posture and Ergonomics do help some, but FAR more important than that is to not remain locked in a bad position for more than 20 minutes without moving around. The rule of thumb to prevent tissue creep is 20 minutes. Get up move around, straighten up, stretch, foam roll, anything that reverses the impending tissue creep caused by sitting or standing in one position.

Please feel free to reach out with any questions,

Dr. Hanson

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