Chronic neck pain
Chronic neck pain is defined as pain that lasts longer than the time that an acute injury would take to fully heal. The generally accepted length of time is around the 12week mark, where things generally tend to move towards the chronic neck pain area.
The causes behind chronic neck pain are a little more complicated than those of an acute neck injury, however, they generally are only concerned with the passive structures in the cervical spine (bony anatomy, discs, & nerves).
A disc injury or irritation is usually due to one of two seperate reasons; degeneration of the disc, or a herniation of the disc. Throughout life we are placing different pressures and stresses on the joints and discs in our spine, meaning that we are slowly degrading them – this is a normal process of aging. However, sometimes we will have excessive wear and tear on the discs in the spine, resulting in “abnormal” disc degeneration. This abnormal degeneration of the discs can result in pain through irritation of the joints in the area, or an irritation in the nerve in the same area – both of which can be quite painful. A herniated disc is usually caused by some form of trauma to the neck, resulting in the outer layer of the disc tearing and the inner layer of the disc protruding into the thecal space – causing irritation or compression of the nerves in the area.
A cervical joint irritation or injury is slightly different to a disc injury. A joint irritation generally affects the nerves a little more closely, but only in certain positions or directions. The reason joint injuries affect the nerves more closely is due to the anatomical proximity they have to the joints, and the lack of available space.