‘What we have here is low back pain that has traveled north,’ said a doctor to a warehouse foreman who couldn’t move his neck without feeling severe pain.
There may be some truth in what you say,’ replied the foreman, who had never suffered low back pain. ‘But what should I do about it?’
‘A good question,’ the doctor said, reaching for his prescription pad. NECK PAIN RELIEVERS
It is a good question. The answer, believe it or not, has almost nothing to do with viewing a pain in the neck as a bad back problem that just happened to land higher up on the spine.
There are similarities, of course, between neck and low back pain. But mostly there are differences – major differences in self-help therapies (including the kinds of exercises to do), in practitioner effectiveness, and in the success rates of a wide variety of neck pain treatments.
Pretty much everybody has had neck pain at one time or another: a stiff neck when they woke up, a painful neck after painting a ceiling, a ‘crook’ in the neck after holding the telephone in an awkward position during a long conversation.
About one-third of people who suffer with chronic pain injured their necks in accidents. And they usually suffered years of pain before learning how to improve their conditions.
‘My problems stem from a minor car accident at which time I was rear-ended while stationary in my vehicle,’ a human resources director reported. What happened to her reflects the experiences of many people with neck pains: ‘I felt fine at first, but the next morning I could barely move my neck.’ After trying manipulation, physical therapy, prescription drugs and acupuncture, and after ‘a period of being totally immobile due to the most excruciating pain I have ever felt,’ she finally found the support and neck pain treatment she needed.
A construction worker’s injury also typifies the traumatic origins of most neck pain. ‘I was hurt on a construction job and was in the hospital forty-one days,’ the worker wrote. ‘I saw many doctors. Most had different opinions on the extent of damage done to my back. All I know is that I have suffered severe pain.’
In a recent international survey of back and neck pain sufferers, almost one-third of survey participants attributed the onset of neck pain to emotional stress. For example, a television personality suffered neck pain while two members of her immediate family were gravely ill. A teacher linked her neck pain to working with highly disturbed and disabled children. An executive experienced severe neck pain while going through a painful divorce.
The remaining survey participants just ‘found’ themselves with a pain in the neck one day. Some had had the pain for years, but at a nuisance level. Others found that it seemingly struck full blown out of the blue.