Does your neck feel stiff or sore all the time?
Did you know that your neck might be causing pain to refer to other places?
Here are our Top 5 major problems your stiff neck might be causing:
Pins and needles in your hand and arm
Tight upper back
- Headaches – Headaches can be caused by upper neck issues. Most headaches or migraines are now thought to be as a result of an over-excited lower brain stem. Specifically, part of the brainstem called the trigeminocervical nucleus (TCN). Upper neck dysfunction including poor posture, stiffness, joint inflammation and strain and lack of muscle control can overly excite the TCN.
More information on headaches:
Other factors separate to upper neck dysfunction that can cause over excited TCN are over-activation of nerves of the face, mouth, ears and teeth. A lack of chemicals that usually suppress some of these messages to the brain and also an imbalance of a specific chemical called serotonin.
For this reason, it is important to be able to reproduce your headache by influencing your upper neck to check if your symptoms are actually coming from your neck and not one of the three other factors listed above. In the clinic we will specifically assess the upper three vertebrae and where they articulate with each other at their facet joints and discs. Different levels of the upper three vertebrae have common referral patterns.
The location of your headache, ie. forehead, behind the eye, temple or the back of the head will help guide us where to begin the assessment. We then aim to reproduce your headache and then we can use a variety of techniques to alleviate it. We will also assess for tightness of the muscles around the neck, which may be contributing to a tension headache.
If we determine that poor posture, habits or weaknesses are contributing to your upper neck dysfunction we will advise on any postural or ergonomic changes and provide specific exercises.
- Arm pain – Arm pain can be caused by a problem in the neck and you may or may not have stiffness in the neck. The problem arises when the nerve root of one or more of the nerves coming out of the neck area (cervical spine) is compromised as it passes through a gap between vertebrae (intervertebral foramen). This can be as a result of:
- bony spurs off the surrounding neck joints
- disc changes
- inflammation of a nearby structure
Muscle tension and specifically myofascial trigger points around the neck can also cause arm pain. Trigger points can result from overuse of certain muscles or from muscles in an overly lengthened position. Muscles close to the neck that can refer pain to the arm include:
- seratus muscles
- terres major
- Pins and needles in your hand and arm – Pins and needles in your hand and arm can occur as a result of the same changes mentioned above. With pins and needles or numbness the parts of the nerves that control sensation are effected. With sensory changes we have to be mindful of the potential for nerve root compression from a bulging disc. The location of the pins and needles or numbness gives us an idea to the level of the nerve root involvement, ie. which vertebrae of the neck.
- Tight upper back – A tight upper back can occur due to referred pain resulting from changes in the lower neck joints. This includes:
- stiffness of the facet joints (outside part of the vertebrae that moves against the vertebrae above and below).
- Inflammation of the discs
- Wear and tear of these joints
Tightness in the upper back can also occur due to trigger points developing. This can be either indirectly as a result of the above joints changes or directly due to overuse of the muscles due to bad posture or an unusual task. These muscles include:
- levator scapulae
- Sinus pain – Sinus type pain can also be caused by neck related trigger points. Specifically, the sternocleidomastoid and upper trapezius muscles. Tension here can refer into the sinus area producing pain which feels similar to sinusitis.
If you have any one of the above problems and you also have a stiff or sore neck then you should get your neck checked.
Our Physio’s at myPhysioSA see these problems all the time and can quickly help you.
Call 1300 189 289 to book now
Anthony Sheridan, myPhysioSA Associate Physiotherapist Mount Barker