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21 Year old active male w/ chronic neck stiffness/pain

tanvirttanvir Posts: 5
edited 02/23/2015 - 1:18 AM in Neck Pain: Cervical

I'm a 21 year old male who has been healthy and active for the majority of my life. For over a year now I've been experiencing constant stiffness/tension in my left trap/levator scapulae/neck. The pain comes and goes depending on my activities and sleeping methods. I believe this is due to a combination of sleeping on my stomach, bad neck positioning when laying on the couch and heavy shrugs in the gym( I keep good form, only up and down motion).

I had sprained my neck twice before, the first time the injury healed on its own after stretching and the second time it was more severe and subsided but never really went away. If I go to the gym my neck usually gets aggravated and more stiff, even though I've reduced weights by 20+ lbs for every exercise and really try to not strain my neck anymore. When the injury first happened it was hard for me to turn my neck to the left and right, but now I have full range but usually hear faint cricks, and swishing sounds...either ligaments stretching, bones rubbing against each other, etc.

I had gone to a chiropractor about 5 months ago, he took xrays and said my neck is loosing its natural curve and the xrays showed it was straighter than it should be...I went in for about 5 visits but it did not seem to be helping (mind you i wasn't in pain at this point, just suffering from constant tension/stiffness). Although I have fixed my sleeping habits, I still wake up with a stiff neck and sometimes its hard to turn a certain direction and when I do, I will hear those cricks and this is really starting to scare me as I'm only 21 years old. I've also gotten massages from RMTs and SMTs who initaly reported some tightness in my traps/levator scapulae but nothing that would make them assume my condition was reliant on that....all in all the massages provided very minor short term relief.

I am at the point where I am willing to let go of the gym for good, and devote myself to ensuring this injury does not progress as once I look through these forums I can see how bad it can affect me in the future. What would be your recomendations? should I go back to chiro? some sort of neck specialist? PT?

Thanks in advance


  • LizLiz Posts: 7,832
    Welcome to Spine-Health

    Use that above hyperlink to help you get started with Spine-Health and navigate through the system.

    If there are any questions, you can always post them here, send Liz or myself a private message or contact Ron rdilauro@veritashealth.com

    Liz, Spine-health Moderator

    Spinal stenosis since 1995
    Lumber decompression surgery S1 L5-L3[1996]
    Cervical stenosis, so far avoided surgery
  • I'll be contacting the chiro within the next few days and requesting a copy of my x-rays so that I may upload it so that anyone can get a better understanding
  • I would go see a physical therapist. If the chiro is manually adjusting you too aggressively he could be causing more inflammation and spasming. A PT can asses you and give you proper exercises to do to help balance out muscles and reduce tightness.
  • tanvirttanvir Posts: 5
    edited 02/23/2015 - 7:07 PM
    Thanks so much for the advice, much appreciated...I will definitely try out a PT instead of continuing the chiropractic. I definitely have noticed an increased tendency of my upper back (around T2/T4) to crack when I retract my shoulder blades together after going to the chiro. Just seems weird as he was not adjusting that area, and it causes no discomfort or pain...but just cracks a lot now. Just a quick question, wouldn't reducing the imbalances/tightness in the muscles surrounding my neck just serve as a temporary course of action as my x-rays had shown a slight loss in the natural cervical curve?

    I'm in no way an advocate of chiropractors, but I sure am looking to ensure whatever treatment I pursue it would treat the injury/cause for the long term...
  • BlessedMom74BBlessedMom74 Posts: 322
    edited 02/24/2015 - 5:29 AM
    I have a reverse curvature in my neck. Could be from sleeping on my stomach most of my life, could be from whiplash, who knows. Changes in the curvature are normal part of aging, especially if you're an active person who's had some injuries. I wouldn't worry about the curvature changes.
    My concern with Chiro's is that they tend to be very narrow in their view of the issue. They focus on the spine only and not the soft tissue, or they over adjust an area, causing more damage. I love chiropractic, have used the, for years, but I found out recently for myself, the adjustments gave me temporary relief only to cause more soft tissue "issues" days later or weeks later.
    The thing I like about PT is that they really look at your whole body. I have 2 herniated discs in my neck and my PT has me strengthening my back, stretching my hamstrings, etc...because it's all connected. The more "balanced" your muscles and soft tissue are, the more aligned your spine will be. Less tension in one area, means less spasmin or pulling in another, etc...
    Of all the therapies I have used with my most recent neck injury I have found PT to be the most beneficial for me. That's my personal experience, in hindsight I wish Inhad stopped the chiropractic adjustments long before I did. I think they needed up adding to my whiplash damage. Just my 2 cents. Good luck!
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,842
    its just not when it comes to spinal disc related problems.
    At this point you dont have any formal diagnosis, so you do not know if its a pinched nerve, a bad muscle pull, poor posture, or a potential disc problem.
    Until you know this, you should stop everything until you at least see your Primary Care physician.
    Let them be in charge as to what is to happen next
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • Thanks for all the input everyone, I'm going to be visiting my MD tomorrow and seek his input (although I had done so when I first started feeling these symptoms and he just advised me to take pain meds/muscle relaxants) . I will most definitely get my x-rays done again and compare them with those prior to chiro adjustments. Given the kind advice, I'm also leaning towards PT as the route to my recovery.

    Just one thing for dilauro... I haven't gotten a formal diagnostic done, but I do not witness any symptoms of a pinched nerve (i.e. no weakness in arms, no tingling, no shooting pain), all the pain/stiffness is localized around my lower neck and left trap. That being said I was hoping it was just a pulled/sprained muscle and took about 4 months off of physical activity to let it heal, but no progress.

    I believe my posture overall is generally good, but I do spend a lot of time on the computer during which I'm in a forward head position.

    Again, thank you for the input, I will post updates over the course of the next couple weeks.
  • So I had my MD write me up for x-rays, which consisted of direct frontal (mouth open and closed), side view and with me looking away from the xray with my chin diagonally upward. I met with my MD today and he simply said that they showed nothing of concern...he didn't really specify any details at all other than that. He just brushed off my concern and told me to stop worrying, even though I've had this stiffness for about a year now. I feel the xray results are strange since the chiro had shown me my x-ray and noted how my neck was slightly straighter than a 'normal' neck. That being said I've stopped chiropractic treatment, which really hasn't benefited me much other than making my neck/upper back crack more than it used to and am going to try some regular massage/physio treatment.

    Since my xrays came in fine, my MD said he doesn't want to refer me to get a CT scan but I'm not sure if I should go back and insist on getting it done. Any thoughts/comments would be greatly appreciated
  • I re-read your first post and I don't see any symptoms related to a pinched nerve or bulged disc, etc. your symptoms all seem to be muscular in nature. I wouldn't worry about the curvature of your neck. That isn't going to cause major problems. It's something that just happens. Mine is straight and reversed at C3-5.
    I really think a physical therapist can help you. I would only request an MRI if you start experiencing numbness, or burning pain, especially if it is radiating down your arm. Otherwise, get some regular massage work, see a good PTwho can help you balance your muscles. Many times weakness in one area can cause another area to over compensate and in turn be tight all the time. Good luck!
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