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Movement of the head and neck is enabled by the various joints in this region, the main role being played by the cervical spine. This is a part of the vertebra or the spine and supports the head and neck in all movements. There are cervical vertebrae, ligaments, muscles, and nerves which ensure this movement happens smoothly. However, given the complexity of the whole structure, head and neck pain are also two of the most common joint pains.
The Neck Bone’s Connected to the Head Bone…
The vertebrae of your neck (cervical spine) support the weight of your head and all its motions, which may not seem like much – until you realize your head weighs as much as a bowling ball. When your neck bones are not positioned properly, the result is tightening of the muscles and irritation of the nerves that connect with your head. Your head and neck symptoms may include some or all of the following:
- Sharp or dull pain or discomfort in your neck
- Stiffness in your neck
- Inability to turn your head to one side
- Shoulder pain
- Jaw pain
Fortunately, you don’t have to live with head and neck pain – and you don’t have to take drugs to eliminate the pain.
- Posture problems: Not providing adequate support when being seated grows to be a menace. With the changing lifestyle where people end up staring at a monitor, there is tremendous stress on the neck muscles, leading to pain and stiffness. There is also loss of flexibility, leading to a stiff neck and headaches.
- Muscle strain: This can occur due to a sudden movement, either when doing something or as a result of accident (like a whiplash injury). The muscle can be torn or injured and this can result in pain, swelling, and inflammation of the affected area.
- Stress: One of the most common identifier of stress is the constant ache/nagging pain in the back of the neck.
- Disk herniation: When the disk is moved out of its space due to excessive movement and rotation, the disk gets herniated and the nerve gets ‘pinched.’ This can cause a sharp, shooting pain to the area where the nerve emerges out of that disk.
Spondylitis, arthritis, etc., are other chronic inflammatory conditions which can affect the neck and head areas.
When there is pain in the head and neck area, the whole body function is affected. The movement is limited and therefore vision, neck movements, and other functions are affected. This, in turn, affects the overall quality of life.
- Identify the problem with a thorough examination, X-ray, and if required soft tissue examination.
- Ice the area for relief of pain temporarily.
- Improve ergonomics in terms of height of the monitor, seat/chair, etc., so the strain is minimized.
- Develop an exercise regimen, which gives adequate exercise to the head and neck muscles.
- Manage stress. Be it physical, chemical, or emotional stress, it takes a toll on the head and neck area. Managing the stress (there is no escape from it!) will definitely see the pains and stiff neck go away.
- Engage in pain management, which is holistic (as above) and does not always resort to medications.
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