News24.com.au – You don’t need to spend thousands on expensive exercises to help alleviate neck pain.
New research has found that stretching can help relieve pain in some people with a particular type of chronic neck pain, and this may help prevent future neck injuries.
The study, conducted by Australian and New Zealand researchers, used a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technique to track the electrical activity of nerve cells in the neck.
They found that while people with neck pain tended to have lower levels of activity in the muscles around their neck, there were also changes in the electrical signals that were being sent from those muscles to their nerves.
“When the nerve cells were stimulated, there was a decrease in the level of activity,” said Dr Jens Böcker, one of the researchers from the University of Melbourne.
“So when the nerve cell is stimulated, it releases a lot of energy, which then makes the muscles contract, and it causes the nerve to go into spasm.”
“When that nerve cell has a low level of electrical activity, it becomes more active, which means that the nerve can’t send its electrical signals back to the brain,” Dr Böker said.
“And that’s where the spinal cord is, which is what causes the symptoms of neck pain.”
Dr Böacker said the study looked at spinal cord activity, but he said the findings were very generalisable.
“This work is in relation to nerve cells, so it’s not a very precise way to look at this,” he said.
He said the research looked at activity in muscle cells, but that the same findings could be applied to nerve fibres.
“We know that the electrical signal is being sent back to nerves, and so this could be a mechanism by which these nerve cells can make more nerve cells and they can send their signals back into the spinal cords, which can cause them to contract and cause more damage to the nerves,” Dr Dusan Jukic said.
Dr Jukickic said the spinal cells involved in spinal cord stimulation could also be involved in pain perception and response.
“What we think of as pain is not necessarily pain at all,” he explained.
“The spinal cord and the nerve signals that it sends to the spinal neurons are really important for understanding the experience of pain.”
The study found that people who had chronic neck symptoms were also more likely to have low levels of electrical signals from the muscle cells around their necks, suggesting that the signals were not being sent as effectively as they should be.
“They have a low amount of electrical signal coming from the spinal cell, and that is probably why they are experiencing pain,” Dr Jukicek said.
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