Neck Related Injuries
The neck (cervical spine) is composed of vertebrae that begin at the base of the skull and end in the upper torso. The bony vertebrae along with the ligaments (which are comparable to thick rubber bands) provide stability to the spine. The muscles allow for support and motion. The neck has a significant amount of motion and supports the weight of the head. However, because it is less protected than the rest of the spine, the neck is vulnerable to injury and disorders that produce pain and restrict motion.
Neck pain may result from abnormalities in the soft tissues—the muscles, ligaments, discs and nerves—as well as in bones and joints of the spine. The most common causes of neck pain are soft-tissue abnormalities due to injury or prolonged wear and tear (for instance incorrect posture of the neck while working on a computer; sleeping on your stomach; sleeping with too much or too little support of the neck). In some people, neck problems may be the source of pain in the upper back, shoulders or arms.
Neck Related Headaches
Headaches due to neck problems are called neck related or cervicogenic headaches. The joints, discs, muscles, and ligaments of the neck all contain nerve endings which are sensitive to neck injury or strains that can result in headaches. The pain of neck related headaches is usually worse at the base of the skull, and may spread to the forehead, temples, eyes, face and shoulder. Poor neck posture and/or holding your head and neck in one position for long periods may bring on the pain or make it worse.
Whiplash Injury/ Whiplash Asociated Disorder
Whiplash is an injury caused by the neck and head being thrown suddenly backward then forward (or vice versa) upon impact. The impact, forces the neck and head beyond their normal range of movement, causing tissue damage and pain. This commonly happens in car crashes but can also happen with sports injuries, falling from a bicycle or horse and skiing accidents.
Common symptoms of a whiplash injury are neck pain from mild muscle strain or minor tearing of muscles and/or ligaments. In more severe cases, this type of neck injury may include nerve damage, disc damage, and in the most severe cases ruptures of ligaments in the neck and fractures of the vertebrae. Whiplash neck injuries are usually associated with pain and limited range of motion of the neck. These symptoms are usually temporary, but if untreated they may persist and progress to headaches, dizziness and tingling in the arms. Symptoms can appear directly after the injury, but often only start the day afterwards.
Locked Joint/Stuck Neck
Each vertebra has two facet (side) joints connecting to the level above and to the level below. Around each facet joint is a capsule. These capsules are lined with a membrane full of nerve endings. Sometimes, certain neck movements can cause one of these membranes to catch between the two bony surfaces of the joint. Because it is filled with nerve endings, this condition can be very painful and cause the individual to be unable to move the neck towards the side of the pain. It then appears as though the neck is stuck in a certain position. A physiotherapist trained in OMT (Orthopaedic Manipulative Therapy) can manipulate this joint and relieve the membrane from between the joint surfaces, as well as relieve the associated muscle spasm and pain with other techniques eg myofasical release, massage and trigger point therapy.