Sometimes life can be a real pain in the neck, literally. You’ve probably experienced waking up realizing you’ve somehow slept in an odd position and now you can’t turn your head. Or you’ve been in a car accident and gotten whiplash. Or maybe you just feel a constant dull ache and tension from sitting in front of a computer all the time. The pain can last from a few hours to days or weeks. But did you know that this neck pain can also cause pain in other parts of your body?
The muscular tension you feel in your neck can be painful by itself, but that tension often spreads. As one muscle is tight, or hypertonic as we like to say, it begins to pull on other muscles and connective tissue. There’s an intricate balance among muscles, and to keep working well together they each maintain a certain level of natural tension. When this becomes unbalanced, it’s not just the one area affected, but it can radiate out causing a chain reaction among numerous structures. Tension in the muscles at the base of the skull, for example, can pull on the fascia, or connective tissue, that wraps over the skull, and connects to more muscles over the forehead and around the eyes, putting pressure on blood vessels and nerves along that same path. The same can happen with tension along the side of the neck, leading to more tension and pain spreading through the shoulder and even down the arm. We have found MyoFascial Massage has been an effective treatment for this condition.
If a disc or vertebrae is involved in a neck injury, these structures can put direct pressure on the nerves as they leave the spinal cord, resulting in pain, numbness, tingling, and weakness along that nerve route. For example, some people may think they have carpal tunnel syndrome (pain and nerve symptoms within the hand and fingers), when in fact the nerve compression isn’t happening at the wrist, but rather up within the neck and is only radiating those symptoms down the nerve all the way to the hand.
When you have any sort of soft tissue injury or tension, inflammation is a likely side kick. That inflammation can spread to surrounding tissues and cause pain and tenderness in those areas as well. You see, inflammation is the body’s way of trying to protect itself. Unfortunately, inflammation can be painful itself, and it can get a little out-of-hand and start affecting areas other than the injury site.
And lastly, the pain you may experience with a neck injury or tension can cause you to alter your posture, positions, and movements, resulting in muscular imbalances and other issues. Pain is a signal to our body to alter something; to move differently, stand or sit, or otherwise change the way we position ourselves. It’s a protective mechanism that’s crucial to keep us healthy. For example, if you wake up with a stiff neck and unable to turn to the left, you’ll undoubtedly hold your head looking slightly to the right until that pain is gone. You may also find yourself having to turn your entire upper body to look over your shoulder while driving. These changes can lead to even more pain setting in as your muscles become even more unbalanced and stressed. Consider trying Cupping Therapy at your next appointment to find relief from fascial restrictions.
The human body is amazingly complex and intricate; how the muscles, nerves, connective tissues, and other structures all work together really is mind blowing. So, when you experience pain in your neck or any area of the body, remember that it may not be the only area you need to pay attention to. Make your appointment now and we’ll help you piece together the puzzle of exactly what’s going on and keep one pain from becoming much more.