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Anatomy of Neck

Neck pain is common in people of all ages and is usually caused by how we use our necks. Neck pain can be acute (occuring immediately as a result of an injury) or chronic (occurring gradually over a period of time) and has a profound effect on quality of life.

In surveys, 25 % of women and 20 % of men report neck pain in an apparently healthy population. In the UK, 15 % of hospital-based physiotherapy referrals are for neck pain. An acute attack usually settles within days or weeks, but at long-term follow-up, 58 % of patients who suffer an attack still have pain in the neck at 1 year.

Anatomy of the Neck

Cervical Spine (Neck) AnatomyThe cervical spine is made up of 7 vertebrae. The first 2, C1 and C2, are highly specialized and are given unique names: atlas and axis, respectively. C3-C7 are more classic vertebrae, having a body, pedicles, laminae, spinous processes, and facet joints.

C1 and C2 form a unique set of joints that provide a great degree of mobility for the skull. C1 serves as a ring or washer that the skull rests upon and articulates in a pivot joint with the dens or odontoid process of C2. Approximately 50% of flexion extension of the neck happens between the occiput and C1; 50% of the rotation of the neck happens between C1 and C2.

The cervical spine is much more mobile than the thoracic or lumbar regions of the spine. Unlike the other parts of the spine, the cervical spine has transverse foramina in each vertebra for the vertebral arteries that supply blood to the brain.

Intervertebral discs are located between the vertebral bodies of C2-C7. They serve as force dissipators, transmitting compressive loads throughout a range of motion. The discs are thicker anteriorly and therefore contribute to normal cervical lordosis. The intervertebral discs are involved in cervical spine motion, stability, and weight-bearing. Interverebral discs in the neck are vulnerable to injury by rotation force.

Symptoms of Neck Injury

Serious Symptoms of Neck Pain

Danger signs (or “red flags”) for neck pain include fever or night sweats, unexpected weight loss, a history of arthritis, cancer or serious infections (such as TB or HIV), immuno-suppression or drug dependency; also the severity of the pain, pain keeping you awake all night, swelling of glands and local tenderness of one of the bones of the neck.

Signs suggestive of a myelopathy include problems with walking or difficulty in using the hands and, if you have had osteoporosis or a previous neck operation, see your GP right away. Occasionally, older people get “drop attacks”, especially when moving the neck, which suggest vascular disease.

Causes of Neck Pain

Neck pain can result from a variety of causes, including:

  • Arthritis
  • Brachalgia
  • Cervical Disc Herniation
  • Degenerative Disc Disease (DDD)
  • Degenerative Joint Disease (DJD)
  • Disc Injury
  • Facet Joint Osteoarthritis (OA)
  • Facet Joint Syndrome
  • Foraminal Stenosis
  • Intervertebral Disc Injury
  • Mechanical Neck Pain
  • Mid Back Pain
  • Muscle Sprain
  • Muscle Strain
  • Myelopathy
  • Neck Pain
  • Neck Sprain
  • Neck Strain
  • Nerve Root Compression
  • Non-Specific Neck Pain
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Spinal Stenosis
  • Spine Arthritis
  • Spondylitis
  • Spondylolithesis
  • Torticollis
  • Trapped Nerves
  • Upper Crossed Syndrome
  • Whiplash

The spine is not suited to sitting in front of a computer or behind the wheel of a car for long periods. Poor posture plus lack of muscle strength and sitting for long periods in one position will result in muscle spasm and pain. Stiffness may occur as the muscle fibres become inflamed and stick together or there is local swelling. Awkward movements and bad posture cause musculoskeletal disorders which affect the full length of the spine, from the neck to lower back, as well as the shoulders, arms and fingers.


Investigations for Neck Pain and Injury

Like every joint evaluation, the start to a diagnosis is a consultation followed by a physical examination. Your specialist will inspect your neck for swelling, pain, tenderness, warmth and visible bruising. A visual assessment is followed by evaluation of the movement and specific orthopaedic tests to determine integrity. Neurological tests will be made to determine compression, damage and irritation to nerves.

After a provisional diagnosis is made by your specialist, it may be suggested you have the joint imaged by:

  • X-ray
  • MRI Scan
  • CT Scan
  • Ultrasound

If your specialist suspects an infection or arthritis you may be recommended a series of have blood tests .

On rare occasions your specialist may request a nerve conduction study to look for nerve injury and compression.

Treatments for Neck Pain

Throughout your diagnosis, treatment, and rehabilitation, dedicated team members will continue to work hard to ensure you can get back to enjoying life with the most comfort, mobility, and functionality possible.

Healthplus Clinics has assembled a group of Neck Pain Specialists to provide complete surgical and non-surgical treatments. Our team of Spinal Specialists includes: Spinal Surgeons, Neurosurgeons, Pain Specialists, Podiatrists, and specially trained Neck Pain Physiotherapists, Chiropractors, and Osteopaths.

Non-Surgical Neck Treatments and Procedures

  • Specialist Neck Pain Physiotherapy
  • Osteopaths
  • Chiropractors
  • Sports Massage
  • Neck Pain and Spinal Acupuncture
  • Electrotherapy

Spinal Pain Management Procedures

  • Cervical medial branch block
  • Cervical medial branch radiofrequency neurotomy (facet joint denervation)
  • Cervical epidural steroid injection
  • Stellate ganglion block

Surgical Spinal Treatments and Procedures

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