Doctors sometimes refer to this type of pain as mechanical pain. This term is used because it gets worse when we use our neck more and seems to be coming from the parts of the cervical spine – the mechanical parts that allow us to move our head around and up and down.
This type of pain does not come from pinched, or irritated, nerves. The pain seems to come from the inflamed facet joints and from the degenerated disc. As the disc and facet joints become more inflamed when we use our neck to move our head, the muscles around the cervical spine begin to spasm. You can think of a muscle spasm similar to a muscle cramp. Muscles that are cramping eventually cause pain. The spasm occurs as the body’s response to try to stop the movement in the cervical spine.
The cervical spine is made up of the first seven vertebrae in the spine. It starts just below the skull and ends just above the thoracic spine. The cervical spine has a lordotic curve, a backward “C”-shape-just like the lumbar spine. The cervical spine is much more mobile than both of the other spinal regions. Think about all the directions and angles you can turn your neck.
Unlike the rest of the spine, there are special openings in each vertebra in the cervical spine for arteries (blood vessels that carry blood away from the heart). The arteries that run through these openings bring blood to the brain.
Two vertebrae in the cervical spine, the atlas and the axis, differ from the other vertebrae because they are designed specifically for rotation. These two vertebrae are the reason your neck can move in so many directions.
The atlas is the first cervical vertebra-the one that sits between the skull and the rest of the spine. The atlas does not have a vertebral body, but it does have a thick forward (anterior) arch and a thin back (posterior) arch with two prominent sideways masses.
The atlas sits on top of the second cervical vertebra, the axis. The axis has a bony knob called the odontoid process, which sticks up through the hole in the atlas. Special ligaments between the atlas and the axis allow for a great deal of rotation. It is this special arrangement that allows the head to turn from side to side as far as it can.
The cervical spine is very flexible, but it is also very much at risk for injury from strong, sudden movements, such as whiplash-type injuries. This high risk of harm is due to the limited muscle support that exists in the cervical area, and the fact that this part of the spine has to support the weight of the head-an average of 15 pounds. This is a lot of weight for a small, thin set of bones and soft tissues to bear. Sudden, strong head movements can cause damage.
John Peloza, M.D., a pioneer in the development of true minimally-invasive spine treatments, founded the Center for Spine Care in 1996. An experienced industry leader, Dr. Peloza offers customized treatment plans to address a patient’s unique and specific source of back or neck pain, from conservative treatments to minimally invasive. If you have neck or back pain, call us at (877) 475-2240, or email us to see if our treatment options are right for you.
Center for Spine Care offers stem cell therapy as a conservative treatment to promote natural healing for back or neck pain. Utilizing mesenchymal stem cells, this new method is used to treat patients with neck and back pain caused from degenerative disc disease.