A combination of factors generally will lead to neck and upper back pain:
- Poor posture
- Chiropractic subluxations
- Disc issues
The neck, in particular, is very susceptible to injury due to the fact that its like a stick with a bunch of rubber bands holding a 15 pound bowling ball on top. It doesn’t take a lot of unexpected movement to overstretch or hyperextend the muscles and vertebrae in the neck and upper back.
With the spinal cord running down through the neck and upper back, any slight injury can cause pain that might even show up in the arms. Symptoms could include:
- Pins and Needles
Sometimes, the symptoms can be confused with carpal tunnel syndrome. Neck issues can lead to headaches and muscle spasms in the shoulders and upper back. Even ringing in the ears and otitis media(inflammation in the middle ear), along with TMGJ (temporomandibular joint dysfunction), restricted movement and tightness in the neck and shoulders.
The muscle groups on the neck are attached to the shoulder area, therefore, when one is out of alignment, the other likely is also.
Causes of Neck and Upper Back Pain
Whiplash is the most common injury to the neck and upper back. It’s caused by an unexpected, and sudden movement of the head in any direction. It results in damage to the muscles, ligaments, and other connective tissues.
Symptoms do not always appear at the time of the accident and if not addressed, injury could become a permanent solution. Sometimes, by the time you start feeling pain, severe damage has already occurred. We suggest that anytime you have had an accident that involved your head moving around in an unnatural way, you should be seen by a chiropractor.
Forward head posture, as with sitting in front of a computer all day long, is also a condition that needs to be addressed regularly. Subluxations, as with computer use will only get worse over time, if not kept in check.
Poor posture is a leading cause of both neck pain and headaches. Bad posture habits are very easy to fall into and can include:
- Reading in bed
- Working on the computer
- Staring at your phone for hours
- Even sitting on your couch and watching TV
A basic rule is to keep your neck in a “neutral” position as much as possible. Do not hunch over or extend your neck forward for long periods of time. Another is to not sit in one position for a long time either.
Misaligned vertebrae in the neck and upper back is common, and the generally the most treated condition in chiropractic care. The stress associated with the head on the neck, mixed with the high degree of instability in the cervical spine leads the treatment to one of four areas:
- The top of the cervical spine (neck) where your neck meets the skull
- The middle of the cervical spine where the head places the most stress on the neck
- The area where the cervical spine and upper back areas of the spine come together
- The middle of the upper back where the stress from the weight of the upper body is at a maximum
There are common signs of subluxation that include:
- If you look in a mirror and your head is tilted to one side
- If one shoulder is higher than the other
- You notice that your sleeve length is different from one are to the other
- A necklace is hanging off center
- Your head sits forward from your shoulders – This is known as FHP – forward head posture – and is common for people who work on computers all day
Stress generally leads to unconscious muscle tightening or contracting. This is very true for the muscles in the upper back, shoulders, and neck areas. This is an automatic response for survival mode, and even though our lives are generally not it danger these days, our body’s systems have thousands of years of genetic habit built into them. Emotional stress tends to leads to subluxation conditions in our bodies.
Exercise and deep breathing exercises are two of the most effective ways to deal with the physical effects of stress.
The discs in your spine can herniate (bulge) and place painful pressure on the nerves on the spine. While this is most common in the middle and lower back, it can happen in the upper back and neck areas – especially so with a whiplash injury.