Young and Restless with a Neck Ache
It seems that neck pain is no respecter of persons. Young and old alike suffer from neck and shoulder pain and symptoms. At least 15 percent of all teenagers suffer from painful neck and shoulder symptoms on a weekly basis. And these symptoms among teenagers have reportedly increased during the past 10 years. The number of people affected increases with age.
Some of this is because of work-related factors. The main culprits are repeating the same task over and over with the arms raised overhead, or working with the neck bent forward. There are some psychological factors, too. People with high expectations of themselves or low control over their jobs are more likely to be affected.
Many studies have shown links between emotional and psychological stress with neck and back pain. So far, no one has been able to show what changes are going on inside the spine when this happens. A large study in Finland was undertaken to actually view the spine and what is happening.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) was used to get baseline information. MRIs were taken of 826 high-school students between the ages of 17 and 19. Some had neck and shoulder pain at the time of the study, while others didn't. Seven years later, the MRIs were repeated when the students were 24 to 26 years old.
Abnormal MRI findings were present in both groups (those with neck pain and those without). Changes in the disc were common in the cervical spine area. This surprised doctors because the group was so young. Only disc herniation as seen on MRI could be linked to the neck pain.
Changes observed in the spine only explain part of the neck and shoulder pain reported in young adults. It's likely that neck and shoulder pain aren't just caused by disc disease or disc protrusion. Other factors such as workload and psychosocial factors add to the risk of these problems.
Sari M. Siivola, et al. MRI Changes of Cervical Spine in Symptomatic Young Adults. In European Spine Journal. August 2002. Vol. 11. No. 4. Pp. 358-363.
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