When a person is relatively healthy, it is easy for them to take the health and vitality that they have for granted. You are able to hop out of bed in the morning and go about your daily activities without having a physical ailment hinder you from accomplishing the things that you want to accomplish. However, when a person is dealing with chronic pain, their life changes completely. Whether they want it to or not, the chronic pain defines who they are, what they can do, and how they will interact with others. This is especially true for individuals who are dealing with chronic neck pain.
Understanding How Your Neck and Spine Work
Pain sufferers want to know why they are experiencing pain in their neck and want to know if it will ever go away. A key to understanding neck pain is to understand some of the basics of how your spine works.
Your spine is made up of a number of bones that are called vertebrae. These vertebrae are stacked on top of each other, and this is what creates your spinal column. In your spine there are 24 vertebrae. In between each of the vertebrates there is a spongy soft tissue that is designed to serve as a shock absorber and to provide a cushion when you move. These are referred to as intervertebral discs.
You can imagine these intervertebral discs as if they were jelly filled donuts. The outer layer of the disc is covered in a firm yet spongy material. Inside is a very soft jelly-like material. The firm outside and the jelly-like inside of the intervertebral disc is what gives your spine its flexibility and strength.
The vertebrae that you have are then joined together by joints that are called facet joints. All of this is held in place thanks to strong fibers known as ligaments.
When you look at the human back, you are going to see that the vertebrae are divided into four different sections. You have seven vertebrae that serve as your cervical vertebrae, which are in your neck. Then you have 12 vertebrae that are your thoracic vertebrae. These are the ones that basically cover the area of your chest. Your thoracic vertebrae do not move as much as your cervical vertebrae or your lumbar vertebra. Finally, you have your lumbar vertebrae. These are the vertebrae that are in your small back. The lumbar vertebrae are the ones that connect to your hips.
From your neck down to your hips, you have muscles that are designed to support your spine, making it possible for you to move. Your spinal cord goes through the center of all of these vertebrae, starting from the base of your skull all the way down to your hips.
As you can see, your spine is a complicated structure. In order for it to function properly, all of the pieces need to be well aligned and organized. If just one of the pieces, be it a disc, vertebrae, muscle, ligament, or facet joint, goes out of place in your neck, it is going to result in pain.
So Why Am I Dealing with Neck Pain?
Now that we have all of this laid out, the next fair question is, why am I dealing with neck pain? Does it mean that I have serious damage to my spine? Not necessarily. In fact, a lot of people who are dealing with pain in their neck have not severely damaged their spine. It could be that the pain you are dealing with is the result of a soft-tissue issue. It could be that your muscles or your ligaments have been damaged or you are dealing with a disorder.
One of the common causes of neck pain is muscle strain. Muscle strain is relatively easy to develop, especially since most people work in an environment where they are either sitting all day in an awkward posture or working in a job that requires strenuous activity. In addition to your posture, other things that could affect the muscles in your neck could be the way that you sleep, how you watch TV, or the way that you use your cell phone.
Do not underestimate the effect that stress can have in creating neck pain. When you are under stress and when you feel anxious, your muscles tense up. Prolonged anxiety and prolonged tensing of the muscles can create conditions in the neck that lead to long-term pain.
Another challenge some face is cervical spondylosis. Cervical spondylosis is a type of arthritis that affects the neck as a person gets older. As you age, those intervertebral discs we discussed earlier start to dry out. As they lose their moisture, they lose their ability to provide a solid cushion. With time, the space between your vertebrae starts to get narrow. It could actually lead to bone rubbing on bone. This is painful on its own. However, the way that your body tries to respond to this disorder can make the pain worse.
Your body tries to repair the damage caused to your vertebrae by creating bone spurs. The result of bone spurs is neck pain and stiffness. In extreme cases, you may deal with tingling in your arms if the bone spurs created in your neck start to affect your nerves.
Slipped discs in the neck are yet another reason why you may be experiencing pain. This condition is referred to as a herniated disc or a bulging disc. This condition is the result of the outer layer of a disc tearing and rupturing. The soft jelly inside starts to bulge out and applies pressure on the nerves in your neck. The pain produced by this type of condition can be excruciating. In addition to causing pain in the location of the injury, the nerve may actually cause the pain to travel through other parts of your body.
Whiplash is another condition that causes pain in the neck. Whiplash is a type of neck sprain. It is commonly associated with automobile accidents. It is a condition where your head goes backward very quickly and then is propelled forward. The result is a stretching of the neck muscles and ligaments. This can cause a severe and intense form of neck pain. The insidious thing about whiplash is that pain may not start until days after the incident or injury that caused the whiplash, so a person may delay in getting the treatment that they need, which only makes the condition worse.
What Is Life Like Living with Chronic Pain?
Chronic pain has a great impact on the individual and on society as a whole. As an example, a person who is dealing with chronic pain in their neck may have increased work absenteeism. Some studies have suggested that individuals who are dealing with chronic pain live a shorter life. The truth is that when talking about chronic pain, the stakes are high. It can completely destroy a person’s quality of life.
Many people focus on the physical aspects of dealing with chronic pain, but they completely ignore the emotional impact that chronic pain can have on a person. When a person is battling with chronic pain, especially pain in their neck that can affect their mobility, it can lead to depression. It is frustrating to want to be able to engage in certain activities only to not be able to because of your health condition.
What’s worse is that friends and family members may not thoroughly understand the severity of pain a person is going through. This is especially true when there is no physical manifestation of the pain. When a person breaks their arm and their arm is clearly disjointed, everyone sympathizes with their pain. However, when a person looks like they are 100 percent okay, yet they are experiencing severe pain, many people play down the severity of the pain. This adds to the emotional toll that they endure.
When a person’s friends and family members do not believe that they are experiencing pain, it can create a rift in the relationship, causing the individual experiencing chronic pain in their neck to want to pull away from those who are doubting the severity of their experience.
Worse still can be the frustration a person experiences when they visit medical professionals hoping to get help for their pain only to be told that the medical professional doubts that the pain exists or the medical professional believes that the pain is the result of some mental or emotional challenge.
When treating chronic pain, be it pain in the neck or in any part of the body, the first thing that has to be acknowledged is that the pain the individual is experiencing is real. It does not matter whether the pain is brought about because of a physical malfunction or as the result of the body reacting to emotional stimulus. The effect that the pain is having on the patient is the same, and so medical professionals need to address treating chronic pain from this standpoint.
When a person is dealing with severe pain in their neck, they don’t need someone to patronize them. They need someone who can listen to them and then provide clear direction on steps that can be taken in order to make the pain disappear. An honest medical professional is going to be upfront with their patient and let them know that they may need to try a number of different techniques in order to address the chronic pain. At the same time, the medical professional needs to comfort their patient and let them know that with time, the pain can be treated. Even if it’s not possible to make the pain disappear 100 percent, the patient will get help to manage their pain.
At the end of the day, when a person is dealing with chronic pain in their neck or another part of their body, what they want is for the pain to go away. They want to be able to return to their previous quality of life. They want to be able to enjoy the relationships that they had with friends and family before pain became a reality. They want to be able to work and to take care of themselves like they did before pain changed their life.
How We Can Help
If you are dealing with chronic pain in your neck, our team of professionals stands by to help you. There are a number of treatments and techniques that we may use with the goal of making your neck pain a thing of the past.
The very first thing that we are going to do is sit down and listen to you. We want to hear about the pain that you have been experiencing. We are going to be interested in listening to the steps you have already taken to try to address your pain. We will ask you about health conditions you have and about incidents, accidents or injuries that you may think led to the pain.
Our team of specialists will get to work crafting a pain management plan that is going to suit your individual needs. Two of the important lessons we have learned about pain is that pain is real for everyone who is experiencing it regardless of if there is an identifiable medical cause for the pain, and everyone’s pain is unique. For this reason, we do not offer a one-size-fits-all treatment. Instead, we will decide on the right procedure to address your condition.
Do not let chronic neck pain define who you are or rob you of the quality of life you deserve. Let us discuss the variety of techniques and options that are available to help you manage your pain with the goal of helping you get back to living the quality of life you deserve. Subach Spinal Solutions is conveniently located in Arlington, VA. Contact us today to schedule your consultation!