Cervical, and all rise. Neck pain is indeed one of the most feared ailments at all ages: it is widespread and affects at least 10% of the population. But do you know everything about cervical pain? What is scientifically valid and how much belongs to popular beliefs?

A correspondence from BBC Italy a few years ago spoofed that cervical pain was a typically local disorder, even in English there is no equivalent word. Well, neck is nothing but a synonym for neck pain.


What is neck pain?

“A pain in the cervical part of the spine that runs in the head,” replies Dr. Lara Castagnetti, a specialist in physical medicine and rehabilitation and osteopath at the Humanitas hospital. “To be clear, we say that the neck pain is not a diagnosis but a symptom of diseases affecting the vertebrae and spinal discs or the muscles at this level.”


What causes neck pain?

“Neck pain arises for example, because you suffer from arthritis or herniated discs or because your muscles stiffen due to incorrect postures. These pains arise after long periods of improper posture, and usage of technology, for example when our head is bowed and shoulders bent when using smartphones and tablets”


Can “cervical” pain cause headaches?

“The muscle spasms can be accompanied by a tension-type headache, not cause it. These are indeed frequent in those with headaches, but are not the cause: the headache is linked to a series of muscular tension” says the specialist.

Mothers and grandmothers often repeat that you should not go out with wet hair to avoid “air blasts” and then suffer from cervical pain”. “They are just popular beliefs?” A healthy person that does not suffer from stress or diseases such as herniated discs can stay safe. If a person has arthritis or muscle contractures, then it can be affected by the change in temperature. A draft or even the change of the time do not cause cervical pain but accentuate something that is already there.”

Stress is one of the causes of neck pain: especially in the cervical area, more than others, is affected by stress. The shoulder muscles contract when they are held up for too long.”


Does the treatment only serve to solve muscle tensions?

“The best therapy involves an intervention on a double track. In addition to releasing muscle tension, which can be achieved through yoga or stretching exercises, it also works on the aspect of psychological stress. Osteopathic treatments, for example, aim precisely to reduce hyperactivity of the orthosympathetic component of the autonomic nervous system that increases with stress and stimulates the parasympathetic which is linked to relaxation. Even a simple half hour walk per day can work on the orthosympathetic component and counteract stress,” concludes Dr. Castagnetti.