Everything You Should Know about Mechanical Neck Pain

Mechanical Neck Pain
Editor's Note: This article has been recently updated with latest information and research studies.
 

Figures show that 100 million Americans and 1.5 billion people worldwide suffer from chronic pain. In fact, one in 10 people has experienced pain every day for three months. Neck and low back pain are the most common forms of chronic pain, which is the number one cause of long-term disability in the US. About 10% of the adult population suffers from neck pain, which only emphasizes the need for exploring this subject in a greater detail. In order to manage pain and discomfort and prevent them from affecting your quality of life, it is important to learn more about mechanical neck pain, its causes, and symptoms. You’ll find everything you should know below.

What is Mechanical Neck Pain?

The term mechanical pain refers to any type of pain caused by placing abnormal stress and strains on spine. Although the term is mainly used for back pain, you can experience it in your neck as well. This type of pain is also known as nonspecific or simple neck pain and it is so common two out of three people will develop it at some point in their lifetime. Chronic mechanical neck pain indicates that the source of pain or discomfort a person experiences is the result of dysfunction or issue affecting the spine and its ligaments and muscles.

While acute pain goes away within three to six weeks, chronic pain is persistent. If a patient experiences mechanical pain in the neck for longer than three months, it is considered chronic and requires doctor’s help for adequate management.

The pain itself occurs due to decreased* motion in one or more joints in a person’s neck. In addition, joint dysfunction can also lead to pain and imbalance in the muscle. Decreased* joint motion is, in many cases, a result of poor posture and other bad habits that add pressure to the affected area thus limiting its flexibility and inducing pain.

The exact cause of mechanical pain in the neck is unknown, but most cases include sprains and strains in this particular area. Basically, mechanical factors cause this type of pain, hence the name of the condition. Some people notice their pain keeps getting worse and the reason why that happens is inflammation of the facet joints between the vertebrae. As a result, the affected neck structures experience more stress which limits their flexibility when you’re moving, bending or turning.

Am I at risk?

Honestly, everyone can develop mechanical neck pain and most people do. Some factors increase* your risk of dealing with this issue. For example:

  • Being overweight or obese
  • Holding the head in an unusual position
  • Improper posture such as sitting in a bent-forward position
  • Physical overload
  • Poor psychological health
  • Prolonged sitting (working, studying) on your computer with screen not being level with the eyes
  • Repetitive activities such as twisting, lifting, and bending
  • Sleeping in the wrong position
  • Smoking
  • Stress

What are the Symptoms of Mechanical Neck Pain?

Basically, any joint in your spine starting at the neck and going all the way down to your back can induce mechanical pain. Different signs and symptoms are associated with mechanical pain, including:

  • Difficulty moving the neck especially when trying to turn your head from side to side
  • Finding it difficult to get dressed and get ready for work because persistent neck pain doesn’t allow you to move easily
  • Headache
  • Localized pain in the neck
  • Pain radiating to shoulders and arms
  • Soreness
  • Stabbing or stinging sensation in some cases
  • Trouble sleeping because you can’t find the right way to lie down without feeling pain in your neck

Symptoms of Mechanical Neck Pain

Symptoms of chronic mechanical neck pain usually develop over time, unlike those associated with injuries.

Treatment of Mechanical Neck Pain

Mechanical pain in both neck and back has a negative impact on a person’s quality of life. Discomfort, stiffness in the affected area, headache, and other symptoms make even the easiest activities burdensome. Your range of motion is severely decreased* and every move becomes difficult to perform.

Not only you find it difficult to move around your home, but your work suffers too. Pain affects concentration, doesn’t let you focus, and it’s needless to mention you can’t move as freely as you’d like. Due to all these reasons and many others, it is important to be proactive regarding pain in the neck.

Don’t wait for it to go away on its own, particularly if the pain is persistent. Consult your healthcare provider regarding symptoms you experience or visit a chiropractor.

While mechanical pain in the neck is frustrating, you can manage it successfully and increase* your range of motion. The most beneficial treatment for this type of pain is a combination of exercise and mobilization or manipulation.

1. Exercise

Regular physical exercise is important for overall health and wellbeing. Workouts help you keep weight in a healthy range and prevent it from forming pressure on your spine. Although evidence on this subject is limited, current data shows strengthening exercises reduce* pain and improve* function.

A study whose findings were published in the journal Physiotherapy revealed that both pilates and yoga were equally effective and safe in decreasing* disability among chronic neck pain patients. Yoga is a great low-impact activity that increases* flexibility and improves* range of motion without causing too much stress on affected areas.

2. Mobilization

Mobilization is a low-velocity technique or physical adjustment whose purpose is to alleviate pain, improve* range of motion, and create a movement within an affected joint that causes pain. This method proves to be effective for reduction* in neck disability, pain relief, and increased endurance in patients who also exercise.

3. Manipulation

Manipulation is a common treatment utilized by doctors or chiropractors to alleviate pain, increase* the range of motion, and restore function to the head and neck region. In addition, manipulation decreases* muscular tone surrounding joint and helps manage stiffness associated with neck pain. A growing body of evidence confirms that manipulation reduces* the intensity of pain and increases* the range of motion effectively.

4. Other things to do

Even though a combination of exercise and manipulation/mobilization is the best way to overcome mechanical pain in the neck, there are many other things you can do to feel better and improve* quality of life. For example:

  • Try the well-known hot and cold method – apply warm compresses on your neck to relieve stiffness and ice packs to numb the pain
  • Get a firm, supportive pillow that will help you sleep better and prevent neck pain that comes due to inadequate head position while sleeping
  • Get a massage
  • Sit up straight, don’t hunch or lean forward when walking or sitting

Conclusion

Mechanical neck pain affects two in three people at some point in their life. This type of pain occurs due to irregularities in mechanical structure brought on by inadequate posture and many other factors. While the pain is usually localized in the neck, it can also radiate to a person’s shoulders or cause headaches. A combination of exercise and mobilization or manipulation is the best strategy to alleviate pain and other symptoms associated with this issue.

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Author

Expert Author : Beth Solomon (Consumer Health Digest)

Beth Solomon has been writing articles on health for more than two years with a concentration on pain management and men’s and women’s health and fitness. She has been a contributing editor to Consumer Health Digest since 2013.