Neck and mid-back pain are not as common as lower back pain, but it can still significantly impact your wellbeing. Most of the time neck and mid-back pain are related to one another, but they can present as separate conditions. The reasons we experience neck and mid-back pain vary, but typically they are associated with poor posture combined with age-related wear and tear.
Symptoms can range from a dull ache to a stabbing or shooting sensation. Pain can be local, or it can radiate from the problem area due to increased muscle tension, and travel down the arms or torso depending on what nerve roots are affected. Pain generally worsens with movement of the neck, shoulders, and mid-back, and improves with rest. Neck and mid-back pain is also frequently associated with headaches. Acute symptoms generally only last for days or weeks, but in cases of significant injury symptoms may persist for some time. Following an injury, it is also possible to experience a delayed onset of symptoms.
SYMPTOMS THAT REQUIRE URGENT CARE
If you have been in a motor vehicle accident or suffered serious trauma, if you experience radiating pain down both arms or legs (myelopathic pain), if you have problems with balance or coordination, experience loss of bowel or bladder control, unintended weight loss, fever, chills, or severe headache with a stiff neck, seek medical care as soon as possible.
The causes of neck and mid-back pain can vary widely. Some of the most common causes include:
- Postural/repetitive strain
- Discogenic pain
- Muscle strain
- Ligament or joint sprain
- Degenerative processes
- Arthritic/inflammatory conditions
- Sports-related injuries
In rare instances, other pathologies may cause pain in the neck and mid-back areas. It is important to note, especially in the case of neck pain, that discomfort may result from dysfunction elsewhere in the body, such as the ribs, mid-back, and shoulder areas. At the Robichaud-Lévesque clinic, we strive to identify the specific cause of our patients’ symptoms so that we may maximize benefits for a positive outcome.
Prolonged sitting and immobility, such as working in a sedentary environment, can contribute to neck and mid-back pain as much as repetitive loading does. Therefore, it is important to maintain proper posture when sitting and standing, as we do when we are moving. Being overweight, smoking, inactivity, and other comorbidities can contribute to an increased risk of suffering from neck and mid-back pain. Traumas such as whiplash injuries are also common causes of neck and mid-back pain.
The first line of defense in addressing neck and mid-back pain is avoiding risk factors such as those listed above. Improving your physical health, practicing proper body mechanics, and maintaining good posture are of paramount importance in managing these conditions. Adjusting your work environment to suit your needs, taking frequent breaks, not carrying anything heavy on one arm or shoulder, ensuring good sleep posture, maintaining a healthy weight and habits[NW15] , staying active, and not smoking can also have a major positive impact. Remember: stand smart, sit smart, lift smart.
Headaches are often associated with neck pain. These are referred to as cervicogenic headaches. If dysfunctions in the neck or surrounding areas can be normalized, these will often lead to a significant reduction in headache intensity, severity, and frequency.
Rib dysfunctions, also called costovertebral dysfunctions are characterized by tight and tender areas on either side of the spine that can often refer pain up the backside of the neck. Rib dysfunctions are also commonly associated with headaches. Many muscles from the neck attach to the upper ribs. When these joints are dysfunctional and do not move properly, the surrounding muscles have to worker harder. This increases stress exerted on the muscles and causes them to become hypertonic (tight), which in turn increases the risk of compressing nerve roots that supply the scalp, which may cause headaches if the condition is not managed properly or in a timely manner.
Conventional medical care of neck and mid-back pain is primarily centered on pain management and reducing dysfunction. But not all neck and mid-back pain is the same. The Robichaud-Lévesque clinic focuses on identifying the root cause of pain in order to tailor treatments and rehabilitation protocols to each patient’s specific needs.
Chiropractic care, including the Sigma Ultralign Instrument, can help maximize joint mobility and reduce muscle tension associated with neck conditions. Photobiomodulation/laser therapy can also help by promoting tissue regeneration, increasing blood flow to the injured area, and controlling inflammation, which leads to long-term positive outcomes. Active rehabilitation is also useful in the management of these conditions. Surgery is rarely needed but sometimes necessary.
It’s important to note that once you start suffering from neck or mid-back pain, you may become predisposed to recurrences. Over time, it may also leave you vulnerable to secondary conditions such as degenerative disc and joint disease. To reduce the risk of reaggravation, it’s important to continue maintaining proper posture and movement patterns and to complete rehabilitative exercize, even when you’re feeling asymptomatic. Regular spinal assessments may also be important in maintaining balance in all neuromusculoskeletal structures and minimizing injury or dysfunction.