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Life, what a pain in the neck...sometimes.

Updated: Mar 16

Neck pain is common in our world today. To put this commonality into a bit of perspective about 1 in 3 people are affected by neck pain once a year. Women are more likely to experience neck pain than men. Eighty percent of people will experience neck pain during their lifetime. Twenty to fifty percent suffer from neck pain yearly. In 2019, the prevalence rate of neck pain was 27.0 per 1000 population. In 2017, the number of prevalent cases of neck pain increased from 164.3 million in 1990 to 288.7 million.

Neck pain is similar to low back pain in that finding the 'cause' of neck pain can be difficult, if not impossible. In fact, based on imaging studies even if someone is said to have 'pathology' it doesn't necessarily mean they will have symptoms. A study performed by Nakashima et al (2015) found that ninety percent of folks without symptoms had a "bulging disc" on an MRI scan, including folks in their twenties. Okada et al (2011) noted a similar finding in those with degenerative disc related findings on MRI. Only ten percent of those with degenerative disc findings actually experienced symptoms. The take home being that a person's neck symptoms may have nothing to do with the presence of pathology. Taking this a step further, IF someone symptoms are related to pathology THEN, based on these imaging studies, they can find hope in the fact that they too may be able to become pain free. In other words, pathology doesn't have to = symptoms.

If a medical diagnosis doesn't always tell us what the underlying cause of our symptom is nor does it tell us how to treat our neck pain? What should we do? One way to manage neck pain is to classify neck related symptoms according to how a person's presents. As the person explains what they feel coupled with the way their symptoms respond to various movements and extra tests this can line up in a certain pattern making it possible to classify those with neck symptoms in certain groups. It is according to these groupings a person may begin resolving their neck symptoms.

The most commonly used classifications include:

  1. Neck Pain with Mobility Deficits

  2. Neck Pain with Movement Coordination Impairments

  3. Neck Pain with Headaches

  4. Neck Pain with Radiating Pain

Neck Pain with Mobility Deficits

Those with mobility deficits will exhibit pain on one side of the neck or in the middle of the neck. They will have limits in neck mobility that consistently reproduces their symptoms. This type of presentation may also be associated with pain referred to the shoulder girdle or upper extremity.

Neck pain with Movement Coordination Impairments

These folks with movement coordination impairments often have some trauma or whiplash history. They too may have shoulder girdle & or upper extremity pain. These folks may exhibit signs & symptoms associated with concussion (e.g. nausea, dizziness, headaches, concentration or memory deficits, etc.)

Neck pain with Headaches

Those with headaches will have noncontinuous, one sided neck pain along with their headache. The headache will also be triggered or aggravated by neck movements or sustained postures or positions.

Neck pain with Radiating Pain

Those with radiating Pain usually have pain into their arm that is considered to be within a specific pattern. This pain may be described as tingling or numb. Individuals may also have muscle weakness in specific muscles.

Please keep in mind, as with all classifications related to the human condition, these aren't perfect one size fits all classifications and some folks may exhibit a combination of these signs and symptoms OR they may also have some unique symptoms all together. This brings us to a pivotal point that needs to be made related to pain in general. With the exception of symptoms associated with red flags, most things we experience from a symptom perspective are able to be overcome given the correct stimulus coupled with time. This unfortunately has gotten lost in our "my way", "right away" generational perspective.

In Conclusion

Neck pain can be at it's worst scary and at best it's best frustrating. However having someone help orient your symptoms into the context of the bigger picture can be helpful in alleviating those fears and or ease your frustrations. Regardless, of how your neck pain presents, IF an attempt to resolve your symptoms addresses your individual needs, THEN it will be more effective in moving you towards a resolution of your symptoms. If you're struggling with neck pain coupled with one or more of the above symptoms were here to help so don't hesitate to reach out today.

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1 Comment

Great post, neck pain is such an interesting presentation. I had so many different methods of treatment from multiple medical professionals, because of multiple issues, but it wasn’t till you performed the dry needling procedure was it ultimately resolved. You were able to figure it out and provide that solution and it felt like a miracle healing.

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