Now that you don’t believe in the biggest myth about neck pain, that it’s simply caused by arthritis, the big question remains: why does the neck hurt?
The common source of neck pain that almost any spine expert would agree with is this: pain comes from the ligaments of the neck.
These are the places where the most common neck pain comes from.
1. Pain can come from tiny tears in the intervertebral disc (ligament)
Neck pain happens when there is stress on the intervertebral disc. The disc is a pad of cartilage between the bones of the neck. This pad of cartilage is filled with water.
Under chronic stress it becomes dehydrated (losing its water). Some of the cartilage can actually tear along the edge of the disc, in a layer called the anulus.
Nerves in the the analus send pain signals to the brain.
2. Pain comes from acute damage to the neck joints (stretching of the ligaments)
Neck pain can also happen when there is damage to one or more joints of the neck. Just like you can twist an ankle and end up on crutches, you can inflame the joints of the neck, especially after an injury.
Inflammation in the space around the bone, between the joints, causes stretchingof the small ligaments around the joints of the neck, activating pain receptors.
As these damaged tissues repair, it can cause pain and muscle tension as the muscles make a natural splint to prevent further damage to the joint.
3. Pain comes from torn ligaments
Long term (chronic) neck pain often appears when there’s stress to the ligaments of the neck. Especially ligaments at the top of the spine, in the upper neck.
Ligaments can be thick and broad, or long and narrow. They are mostly fibers of collagen. They connect joints, bone to bone. They are different from tendons, which connect muslces to bone.
The ligaments of the neck are loadeded with pain receptors. These receptors activate when stretched, and can go absolutely crazy when there are small or large tears in the fibers of the ligaments.
Because ligaments do not have the same acess to blood as muscles, bone, and skin, they heal a lot slower than these other kinds of tissues.
Which means these pain signals can last for awhile. Especially if those ligaments can’t heal as quickly as they should.
And what can stop them from healing? Mechanical tension.
The mechanical solution
Many patients with long term neck pain have discovered that healing from this pain requires addressing the mechanical cause of this ligament stretching or tearing.
Many people suffering with neck pain find upper cervical chiropractic care to be very helpful at helping the body self-heal through neck pain by changing the mechanics of the whole neck, taking pressure of these damaged ligaments.
If your doctor is telling you that it’s just muscles or arthritis causing your neck pain, then perhaps you need a second opinion from an upper cervical chiropractor.