Neck pain is a very common symptom in both genders of all age groups. The main cause of neck pain is disorder of the cervical spine, which usually manifests as neck pain, but can also refer pain to the head (headache), shoulders and chest. Neck pain usually originates from the spinal joints in the neck. However, it may also arise from muscles, discs and/or ligaments.
At any one time, approximately 10% of the adult population are experiencing an episode of neck pain.
Thoracic or middle back pain is also common in people of all ages, including children and adolescents. Increased muscle tension, dysfunction of the joints in the middle back and/or dysfunction of the rib articulation to the spine are all commonly encountered, especially in people whose lifestyle creates stresses and strains through poor posture, heavy lifting and repetitive movements.
Thoracic pain is very commonly associated with neck pain and vice versa, due to the large areas of muscle attachments over both the neck and middle back regions. Therefore, in treatment, it is important that both areas are thoroughly assessed and treated accordingly, due to their close relationship. This relationship is especially noted in sedentary work, where workers spend many hours in a seated position, either in meetings or in front of computers!
The majority of cases of neck and middle back pain are not serious and are usually due to prolonged repetitive motions, poor posture, incorrect and/or heavy lifting, causing a build-up of stress within the postural muscles and joints. People usually describe their pain in this region as a dull ache across the shoulders and into the neck, sometimes accompanied by headaches.
People can also experience acute neck pain. This may occur upon waking in the morning or following a motor vehicle accident and results in extreme pain especially when trying to move the neck in any direction. Often, in this instance, the neck may feel ‘locked’.
Acute middle back pain can also occur and usually involves the rib articulation as it attaches into the spine. This presents as sharp pain upon moving and in some cases breathing.
Osteopaths aim to restore the normal tension within the muscles and increase the range of motion of the joints of the affected areas. They do this by applying hands-on techniques, including soft tissue massage, stretching, joint articulation, mobilisation and in some cases manipulation. They also provide postural, exercise, pillow and ergonomic advice.
Osteopathic treatment can greatly reduce the frequency and intensity of neck and middle back pain episodes and associated symptoms such as headaches. It can also help to decrease the chance of reoccurrence.