Backache: The new normal? Neck and mid-back pain

By Yannick Guillodo, Sports Physician, Davit Muradyan, Wellness Training coach

In France, it is estimated that 80%* of people will suffer from backache at least once in their lives.
Aside from lumbar pain, which is the most common complaint, neck and upper back pain (cervicalgia) or mid-back pain (dorsalgia) are also common back complaints. Since the start of the pandemic, more and more French people have been suffering from back pains.
So why is this? An increase in sedentary lifestyle, workspaces poorly adapted to working from home …

What is cervicalgia?

Cervicalgia is a term used to describe pain felt in the neck area, that is, from the top of the back, up to the neck.
Depending on its cause, there are 3 major types of cervicalgia: common cervicalgia (concerning 70% of cases), non-common cervicalgia and finally cervicobrachial neuralgia.
– Common cervicalgia: characterized either by a sudden onset (torticollis) or by a more chronic pain. In both cases, and in 90% of cases, these pains are muscular in origin; it is a contraction of the paracervical muscles. Bad posture, especially during long periods while working or during leisure time, may be the source of what is known as postural cervicalgia. Finally, there are also cases of degenerative cervicalgia (related to age and arthritis), which is a normal phenomenon.
– Non-musculoskeletal cervicalgia (not related to muscles): sometimes related to a trauma, for example whiplash (rapid, sudden, and extreme flexing and extension of the head and neck). This type of cervicalgia can also be observed following other forced movements (for example a car accident). If the pain persists and becomes chronic, it is best to consult a doctor. As with all back pains, the cause of this type of cervicalgia may be inflammatory, tumoral or infectious.
– Cervicobrachial neuralgia is a pain with a neurological cause, radiating from the neck (cervical spine) and following a painful path into the shoulder, down the arm and the forearm, even sometimes extending into the fingers. This type of cervicalgia requires medical treatment

What can you do to avoid common cervicalgia?

Common cervicalgia is generally associated with bad posture. Since the sudden increase in home working following Covid-19, many employees complain of neck pains. Working with a rounded back, the head lowered, the computer screen positioned too high or too low are amongst some of the causes of this muscle pain. This is why it is important to correct your posture and to adapt your workstation.
Nevertheless, the scientific proof of a link between common cervicalgia and poor posture are very rare and very weak.
What we do know, is that common cervicalgia is more commonly related to a global context that is known as “lifestyle” and that encompasses sleep quality, physical and sports activity and general well-being …
Common cervicalgia is usually remedied through a healthy lifestyle.

In this context, it is essential to:

– Break up sedentary periods during your working hours. Get up every hour and take a few steps, then every two hours, complete a few muscular exercises (stretches and joint motions).
– Improve your physical fitness and your cardio-vascular capacities (Relaxation & physical fitness)
– Do not forget muscle strengthening exercises
– Optimize your sleep quality: a bad night’s sleep can cause muscular pain upon waking.
– Optimize your well-being and your capacity to relax by practicing for example Yoga and/or meditation: neck pain can be linked to poor well-being.
What is dorsalgia?
Dorsalgia is a pain in the dorsal vertebrae. The pain is located in the middle of the back: from the base of the neck to the top of the buttocks.
In 95% of cases its origin is muscular; this is a common dorsalgia. In some cases however, dorsalgia can be a projected pain (due to a cardiac, pulmonary or other problem) and its cause is difficult to establish. Unlike with lombalgia, it is important to carry out a medical examination to confirm whether it is really a common dorsalgia.
What can you do to avoid common dorsalgia?
The treatment for common dorsalgia is exactly the same as for common cervicalgia and is improved by adopting a healthy lifestyle: breaking up periods of sitting, improving your physical fitness and endurance, strengthening your back, optimizing your sleep quality and improving your well-being. The muscles you need to strengthen however are not the same as those in the case of a cervicalgia.
Particular importance should be placed on the dorsal and abdominal muscles.
Again, scientific proof indicates that posture or poor mattress quality are not sufficient in themselves to cause the appearance of dorsalgia.
Weight should also be considered. As weight gain may have consequences for your back, do not hesitate to contact a dietician.
Preventing cervicalgia and dorsalgia: Our solution
Assess your current back pain using our questionnaire on the Well by Wellnesstraining app.
Five easy steps: are you currently suffering from back pain? How long have you had this back pain? What is the intensity of your pain? Does it have an impact on your daily life? And finally test your joint suppleness. Then after this, we will be better able to assess your needs and advise you more accurately.
Depending on your answers, you will receive a personalized training programme featuring muscle strengthening and cardio-vascular exercises.
Everybody can benefit from this programme. If you suffer from back pain, our programme will help you to prevent this becoming chronic, to ensure that recurrences are less likely and to break free of the pain. If you do not suffer from pain, follow our preventive programme.
To go further, one-to-one interviews with a coach and Live group classes are on offer on the Well by Wellnesstraining app.