About Cervical Spine
The neck supports the weight of the head. The movements it makes are flexion, extension, side-bend, and twist or rotation. It is innervated by the jugular plexus, well-vascularised in the veins, arteries, lymph vessels, and constructed of 7 cervical vertebrae (C1-C7). The last C7 vertebra is the protruding part of the spine (in most of us, it is visible and felt under the fingers). Cervical lordosis is a physiological curve. The muscles stabilising the cervical spine and enabling movement are divided into three groups: superficial (wide neck, sternocleidomastoid), middle (subhyoid, suprahyoid), deep (oblique, pre-vertebral). They also allow jaw lowering or laryngeal movements.
The most common problems related to the cervical spine:
- “Smartphone” neck
- Cervical headache
- Syndrome of obliqueness
- Neck pain
- Whiplash trauma
- Degenerative changes
Cervical spine disorders affect the entire body. The pain can be felt in the spine, head or radiate over the entire hand or fingers. Headaches due to the increased tension in the neck muscles can radiate to the occiput or eyeballs. Neck pain can cause fainting, migraines and tinnitus. Degenerative changes can lead to pressure on the vertebral arteries, spinal nerves or narrowing of the spinal canal. The diagnostic process, including conversation, interview and palpation, is of the essence. It is necessary to perform vascular and functional tests to assess the cause of the problem. “Red flags” should be excluded and, if necessary, a referral to a medical consultation made.
Elements of the rehabilitation process:
- Manual therapy (e.g., McKenzie, Mulligan, Ackermann)
- Trigger point therapy
- Dry needling
- Exercises to strengthen and correct the posture
- Learning self-therapy
Correct posture and work ergonomics affect the functioning of the cervical spine. The type of mattress and pillow the patient sleeps on is essential. The therapist’s paramount role is to explain the problem and teach self-therapy techniques to maintain the effects of rehabilitation.
If pain persists, the visit to the physiotherapist must not be postponed. Increasing discomfort foreshadows severe afflictions.