Cold weather can be real pain in the neck

Local | Kinling Lo 12 Feb 2016

Be careful of that sneeze in cold weather it could throw your neck out of joint.

According to chiropractor Antonio Wong Chun-wah, a violent sneeze could be the catalyst for a cervical disc problem, causing immediate numbness and stiffness in the limbs and joints.

Wong said about 30 percent more people have sought help from him this winter for disc protrusion, also known as cervical disc problem a disease of displacement of small cushions in between individual bones in the neck compared with the past.

He said the temperature fluctuations and the exceptionally high humidity since December added to the pressure of a swollen neck that is often caused by head tilting or back hunching.

Sudden actions that could exert such pressure between the bone joints such as a sneeze or carrying heavy things can cause numbness to the nerve systems in the hands, legs or even the face.

"Some people mistake this numbness as a stroke as not many are aware of their spinal or neck problems until there is extreme pain or numbness," he said.

"All Hong Kong people more or less suffer from different levels of disc erosion due to our living habits, but many would just assume it to be a tired shoulder or a slight muscle pain and try to soothe the problem by having a massage."

Smartphone users who commonly tilt their head to look at the screen and office workers who tilt their heads when typing are those at a higher risk of having disc problems

"My youngest patient was only five years old and he suffered from disc erosion problems as he played too much on his iPad," Wong said.

He advised those who suffer shoulder or neck pain at the same position continuously for two days to seek medical help.

"A healthy neck could turn left and right in parallel to the shoulders and up and down without feeling painful. If people find that their range of movement is limited, that could be a problem," Wong said, adding that chiropractic checkups should become as common as dental checks.

"Seven out of 10 patients who suffer from a disc problem could be healed but three would end up undergoing surgery because they did not seek help as soon as possible," he said.

It also tends to be more difficult for elderly people to recover as erosion of the soft tissues in between the bones accumulates over the years.

Regular stretching every 20 minutes or so may help those whose work keeps them sitting in the same position.

"Keeping oneself hydrated by drinking more water will also help maintain the health of joints," Wong said.

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