Dr. Mark S. Cantieri • Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine
Neck Pain & Whiplash
Neck Pain & Whiplash
Your neck is made up of seven vertebrae that begin in the upper torso and end at the base of the skull. It is responsible for supporting the weight of the head and allowing it to rotate, sidebend, flex and extend. The neck is more vulnerable to injury and disorders that cause pain or restrict mobility than some other parts of the body.
Causes of Neck pain
Auto accidents, falls, blows to the head and contact sports like football can cause a neck injury. The most common neck injuries involve the soft tissues: the muscles, tendons and ligaments.
Severe neck injuries with a fracture or dislocation of the neck may damage the spinal cord and cause paralysis. “Whiplash” can occur in an automobile collision when hyperextension or hyperflexion occurs, which is the backward or forward motion of the neck beyond its normal limits.
For most people, neck pain is a temporary condition that disappears quickly, usually caused by something simple such as sleeping in an uncomfortable position or a mild sprain while playing sports or from poor posture at work or school.
However, sometimes neck pain is persistent and lasting and requires a medical evaluation, diagnosis and treatment for relief and healing. If severe neck pain occurs following an injury (motor vehicle accident, accident at work or at home, or a fall), your neck should be immobilized to avoid the risk of further injury and possible paralysis and you should seek medical treatment immediately. You should also seek medical treatment immediately when a neck injury causes pain, numbness or weakness that radiates down the arms and legs.
Two common and often unrecognized causes of neck pain include jaw pain (TMJ) and sleep apnea. Both of these will force a person to unconsciously thrust their head forward. This creates chronic stress to the neck ligaments and joints and will eventually lead to pain, ligamentous sprains, disc degeneration and arthritic changes in the neck.
Types of Neck Pain
Neck pain is also referred to as cervical pain. In some people, the neck may be the source for pain experienced in the head, upper back, shoulders, or arms.
Neck pain is commonly associated with dull aching, stiffness and nauseating head pain. Sometimes the pain in the neck is worsened with movement of the neck or turning the head. A person will complain that they cannot get comfortable when they lie down and may have tried numerous pillows without any success. Other symptoms associated with some forms of neck problems include numbness, tingling, tenderness, sharp shooting pain, fullness, difficulty swallowing, pulsations, swishing sounds in the head, dizziness or lightheadedness, and lymph node (gland) swelling.
Neck pain can also be associated with headache, facial pain, shoulder pain, and arm numbness or tingling (upper extremity paresthesias). These associated symptoms are often a result of nerves becoming pinched in the neck. Shoulder injuries will alter upper body movement and eventually cause neck pain. Depending on the condition, sometimes neck pain is accompanied by upper back and/or lower back pain.
Treatment of Neck Pain
If you have been in an auto accident or other type of accident, you should seek medical attention immediately if you feel neck pain at that time.
If you have not been involved in an accident or injury, you should seek medical care when neck pain is constant, persistent and severe, or you feel pain that radiates down your arms or legs, or you have headaches, numbness, tingling, or weakness in your arms or legs.