Neck is made up of vertebrae that extend from the skull to the upper torso. The neck—or cervical spine—is a coordinated network of nerves, bones, joints, and muscles directed by the brain and the spinal cord. It is designed for strength, stability, and nerve communication. The cervical spine is a marvelous and complex structure. It is capable of supporting a head weighing 15 or more pounds CHANGE TO KILOS while moving in several directions. No other region of the spine has such freedom of movement. Cervical discs absorb shock between the bones. The bones, ligaments, and muscles of your neck support your head and allow for motion.
This complex structure includes 7 small vertebrae, intervertebral discs to absorb shock, joints, protect the spinal cord, 8 nerve roots, vascular elements, 32 muscles, and ligaments.
The nerve roots stem from the spinal cord like tree branches through the fore arm in the vertebrae. Each nerve root transmits signals (nerve impulses) to and from the brain, shoulders, arms, and chest. A vascular system of 4 arteries and veins run through the neck to circulate blood between the brain and the heart. Joints, muscles, and ligaments facilitate movement and serve to stabilize the structure.
Neck mobility is matchless, and very important. It is capable of moving the head in many directions: 90° of flexion (forward motion), 90° of extension (backward motion), 180° of rotation (side to side), and almost 120° of tilt to either shoulder.
This combination however, complexity and mobility, make the neck susceptible to pain and injury.
Neck pain can feel like any of the following:
- Stiff neck that makes turning the head difficult
- Sharp or stabbing pain in one spot
- Soreness or tenderness in a general area
- Pain that radiates down into the shoulders, arms, or fingers; or radiates up into the head
In some cases, other symptoms associated with the neck pain are even more problematic, such as:
- Tingling, numbness, or weakness that radiates into the shoulder, arms, or fingers
- Trouble with gripping or lifting objects
- Problems with walking, balance, or coordination
- Loss of bladder or bowel control
Some causes of neck pain include:
- Carrying a heavy backpack or purse on one shoulder
- Cervical dystonia (spasmodic torticollis)
- Cervical spondylosis
- Cradling your phone between your shoulder and neck
- Emotional stress
- Herniated disk
- Meningitis (inflammation of the membranes and fluid surrounding your brain and spinal cord)
- Muscle strain
- Osteoarthritis (disease causing the breakdown of joints)
- Poor posture
- Rheumatoid arthritis (inflammatory joint disease)
- Sleeping on your abdomen or with too many or too few pillows
- Spinal stenosis
- Tension headache
- TMJ disorders
- Trauma from accidents or falls
- Repetitive action
Ayurveda describes this condition as Greeva (neck) shoola (pain)/graham or stambha (stiffness/rigidity). It is explained as vata condition. Increase in vata leads to dryness and degeneration which in turn decreases kapha leading to stiffness.
Other than above mentioned causative factors ayurveda describes psychological factors like stress, grief, fear, anxiety, anger as major cause of neck pain.
The general line of treatment depending on aggravated condition should be focused on Vatakapha hara chikitsa, Sula hara chikitsa, Asthikshayajanya chikitsa and Naadi balya chikitsa. The following modalities are adopted for management of greeva graha :
- Shiro dhara (pouring a stream of medicated oil and buttermilk on the forehead while gently massaging the head).
- Shiro vasti (bathing the head with medicated oils by way of a cap-like apparatus).
- Nasyam (administration of medicated oil through the nose that cleanses the accumulated kapha toxins from the head and the neck area).
- Abhyangam (a whole body massage with herbal oils for harmonising the body, mind, soul and the senses).
- Nadi swedana (medicated steam bath
- Patra pottali swedana (massaging with herbal leaf bundles).
- Shastika sali pinda swedana (a highly effective rejuvenation technique that uses a special kind of rice that is cooked, ties into bolus, and dipped into a herbal decoction and warm milk, later massaged all over the body).
- Greeva vasti (retaining medicament on the nape of neck to decrease the cervical spinal compression).
Apart from therapies, ayurvedic treatment for neck pain also includes medicines ranging from thailams, churnams, asavams, ghrithams, lehyams prepared from ayurvedic herbs such as rasna, dasamoola, aswadandha etc.
Doctor after assessing condition will make a treatment protocol most suited to the patient,