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What Is The Cervical Spine, And Is It The Cause of my pain?

Neck Pain - Male Anatomy Sportsman Holding Head and Neck - Cervical Vertebrae Area - isolated on white

Are you one of the many people suffering from chronic neck pain?

Do you want to get to the root cause of this pain instead of just managing the symptoms?

Well, the cervical spine (the upper portion of your backbone) could well be the culprit and the root cause of your pain.

Neck injuries and pain are uncomfortable and can significantly impact your everyday life, making it difficult to perform even the simplest tasks. Everything you do hurts, right?

Cervical neck pain can be a minor annoyance or a major burden depending on its severity.

The best thing to do for your own health is to be aware of the causes and symptoms of cervical spine pain, as well as make sure you take steps to manage and treat it effectively. 

But before you set about trying to fix the problem, you need to see a physical therapist to evaluate whether your cervical spine is the cause of your pain and get a proper diagnosis.

It could be something else entirely. So, if you’re in pain now, we urge you to make an appointment with us at Apex Rehabilitation. 

It's important to pay attention to your body and recognize when something feels off or different from your usual state.

Sometimes, we ignore warning signs because we don't want to make a big deal out of it, but when you have chronic neck pain, seeking professional help from a physical therapist can transform your life. 

For information purposes, however, we will use this blog to explain the cervical spine and how it could be causing your discomfort. 

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Understanding the Cervical Spine 

Cervical vertebrae. Neck. Fragment of a human skeleton on a blue background

When you understand this fascinating area of the body, you can better appreciate and care for your neck and improve your overall health. 

The cervical spine is one of the smallest sections of the spine compared to the lumbar spine (lower back) and the thoracic spine (mid-back).

There are just seven little bones (vertebrae) inside it. But it plays a crucial role in protecting and supporting your head and neck. The neck governs just about everything.

All the messages and sensory information going to and from your brain travels via the cervical spine. 

There are also major blood vessels like the jugular vein running through there.

The brain might be your super-computer, but it’s not a lot of use without the neck keeping it upright and in its proper position. 

It also enables a range of movements, from bending and twisting to tilting and turning our heads.

So, understanding the anatomy of the cervical spine is essential in comprehending how your neck functions and the importance of its health and mobility.

The cervical spine is a complex network of bones, muscles, and connective tissues that all work together to keep us upright, mobile, and healthy, from the supporting ligaments to the protective discs between each vertebra. We’d be lost without it. 

What Are The Symptoms Of Cervical Neck Pain?

Beautiful young woman suffering from headache while sitting at table, on color background

Although neck pain can be mild and manageable in some cases, when left untreated, it can have an increasingly negative impact on your health and quality of life.

It can be a real pain in the neck (pun intended). Some of these things can be indicative of other things. Still, some of the physical symptoms of cervical neck pain include the following: 

  • Pain that worsens with movement
  • Insomnia and trouble sleeping
  • Tingling or numbness in your hands or arms
  • Muscle weakness in the arms
  • Tightness/stiffness and an inability to move the neck freely
  • Dull aching pain in the neck
  • Sharp stabbing pain in the neck
  • Painful muscle spasms
  • Headaches
  • Vertigo/Dizziness
  • Facial/Jaw pain
  • Shoulder pain and muscle weakness 

What Causes Neck Pain? 

Digital composite of  Highlighted spine of woman with neck pain

Neck pain is a common ailment that affects millions of people in the US and worldwide. There are various reasons why you might experience neck pain or injury. One of the most common causes is poor posture.

For example, sitting in front of a computer for hours or slouching while texting or scrolling on a smartphone can all strain the muscles in the neck, leading to discomfort and pain.

Other things that can cause neck pain include sports injuries, whiplash, and degenerative diseases like osteoarthritis.

In some cases, a pinched nerve in the neck can also be the culprit behind your neck pain.

But whatever it is, identifying the underlying root cause of your neck pain with the help of a physical therapist is essential to determining the appropriate treatment plan. 

So, if you have neck pain now, don’t ignore the symptoms because things can worsen and lead to chronic pain. 

What Is The Best Treatment for Neck Injuries and Pain?

Male physical therapist doing neck adjustment in the medical office

Neck pain can be one of the most frustrating and uncomfortable types of pain to experience. 

Whether it's from a car accident, sports injury, or just sitting at your desk all day, it can feel like the pain will never go away.

Luckily, there are a variety of different treatment options available to help alleviate your neck pain and treat injuries to the cervical spine.

Some of the most common treatments include physical therapy (the most effective), massage, chiropractic care, and pain medication.

There are some things you can do to help at home. For starters, you might want to try applying heat or cold to the affected area.

Depending on what feels better for you, you can use a hot water bottle or a cold compress. One easy and effective change you can make to your lifestyle is to incorporate more physical activity into your routine.

Regular exercise can help relieve stress and tension in your muscles, which can relieve neck pain and discomfort. Another change is to modify your diet.

Cutting back on processed foods and increasing your intake of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help reduce inflammation in your body, which can lead to neck pain.

Lastly, it's important to get enough quality sleep each night. Sleep impacts our overall health and well-being.

By making these simple lifestyle changes, you can start to feel better and reduce your discomfort in no time.

These things can all help, but it might not surprise you to hear us say that physical therapy is the most effective treatment for neck pain.

The scientific evidence is clear that physical therapy using a combination of hands-on therapy, spinal manipulation, and therapeutic stretching and strengthening exercises can often fully resolve neck pain symptoms and prevent you from suffering from neck problems in the future – better than any other treatment.

A 2019 study showed that physical therapy was the most effective treatment for neck pain compared to other treatments like acupuncture or medication.

Physical reduces pain and improves your neck's range of motion and strength. The therapeutic exercises we use during the session include neck stretches, shoulder shrugs, chin tucks, and other movements to help rehabilitate your neck, reduce pain, and help regain your quality of life.

We also educate you on how to maintain a good posture and how engaging in specific forms of regular exercise and movement can help prevent neck pain in the future. 

So, if you're experiencing any cervical spine pain or injury, physical therapy should be your go-to choice for treatment.

Unlike medications, which only address the symptoms of the problem, physical therapy works to correct the underlying root cause of the pain.

In addition, we can help improve your postural alignment, strengthen surrounding muscles, and increase your flexibility. 

Physical therapy is a safe and non-invasive option that can help you avoid surgery risks and avoid the downtime that goes along with surgery and rehab.

Unlike temporary fixes like massage and chiropractic care, it's also a long-term solution.

At Apex Orthopedic Rehabilitation, we're committed to helping you understand your condition and work towards reducing your symptoms with personalized treatment.

We understand how hard living with neck pain or an injury can be.

That's why our team is passionate about using an integrated approach that provides highly customized solutions tailored to meet your individual needs and goals – recommending treatments and exercises to help relieve your pain and get you back to feeling your best. 

We can also help you identify which lifestyle changes you could make that may help reduce your level of discomfort. We proudly offer care plans designed around you so you can live without chronic neck pain.

So don't suffer through the pain - act now and feel better. 

Book a free consultation at The Apex Rehabilitation clinic now.

Tom Willemann

Tom Willemann

Tom Willemann is a premier physical therapist based out of Bergen County, New Jersey. He holds an MS in physical therapy from the University of Miami, is credentialed in the world-renowned McKenzie Method of Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy (MDT), and holds an OCS (Orthopedic Clinical Specialist) certification. As of 2018, there are approximately 14,000 ABPTS certified specialists in the nation and less than 400 of them are located in the state of New Jersey. Tom is the owner and director of Apex Orthopedic Rehabilitation in Paramus. He opened the clinic, which specializes in spine and sports injury prevention, in 2004 after many years of experience in the field. Tom’s caring interest in others and his strong belief in continuity of care, combined with his clinic’s ability to find solutions for the most difficult orthopedic problems, have earned Apex Orthopedic Rehabilitation its excellent reputation with patients and medical professionals in northeastern New Jersey and beyond. A true “family man,” Tom takes pride in his clinic’s warm and welcoming environment.
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