Our neck, also called the cervical spine, begins at the base of the skull and contains seven small vertebrae that together support the full weight of our 12-pound head! The flexibility of the cervical spine – allowing our head to move in nearly every direction – makes the neck very susceptible to pain and injury.
The neck’s susceptibility to injury is due in part to biomechanics caused by activities and events that such as extended sitting, repetitive movement, accidents, falls and blows to the body or head, normal aging and everyday wear and tear.
Here are some of the most typical causes of neck pain:
- Daily Life: Poor posture, obesity, and weak abdominal muscles often disrupt spinal balance, causing the neck to bend forward to compensate. Stress and emotional tension can cause muscles to tighten and contract, resulting in pain and stiffness. Postural stress can contribute to chronic neck pain with symptoms extending into the upper back and the arms.
- Injury and Accidents: A sudden forced movement of the head or neck in any direction and the resulting “rebound” in the opposite direction is known as whiplash. The sudden “whipping” motion injures the surrounding and supporting tissues of the neck and head. Muscles react by tightening and contracting, creating muscle fatigue, which can result in pain and stiffness. Severe whiplash can also be associated with injury to the intervertebral joints, discs, ligaments, muscles, and nerve roots. Car accidents are the most common cause of whiplash.
- Growing Older: Degenerative disorders such as osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis, and degenerative disc disease directly affect the spine.
- Osteoarthritis, a common joint disorder, causes progressive deterioration of cartilage. The body reacts by forming bone spurs that affect joint motion.
- Spinal stenosis causes the small nerve passageways in the vertebrae to narrow, compressing and trapping nerve roots. Stenosis may cause neck, shoulder, and arm pain, as well as numbness, when these nerves are unable to function normally.
- Degenerative disc disease can cause reduction in the elasticity and height of intervertebral discs. Over time, a disc may bulge or herniate, causing tingling, numbness, and pain that runs into the arm.
During your visit, your Chiropractor will perform exams to locate the source of your pain and will ask you questions about your current symptoms and remedies you may have already tried. A thorough assessment and examination will be performed including a physical, neurological and orthopedic exam. In some instances, your chiropractor might order scans such as x-rays to help diagnose your condition.
Commonly, chiropractic usually involves treatment of neck pain conditions through spinal manipulation, manual manipulation and mobilization.
Spinal and manual manipulation refers to a high-velocity, short lever arm thrust that is applied to abnormal vertebra (see subluxation), with the goal of improving functionality, reducing nerve irritability and restoring range of motion in the back. It is also commonly known as “chiropractic adjustment“. This adjustment can be done either manually by hand or supportive device like a Drop-Piece chiropractic table or Chiropractic Activator Tool. In contrast, Chiropractic mobilization7 refers to low velocity manipulation, movement and stretching of the muscles and joints, with the goal of increasing the range of motion within those areas. Mobilization is commonly used in addition to chiropractic adjustments.
Research Shows one of the most recent reviews of scientific literature found evidence that patients with chronic neck pain enrolled in clinical trials reported significant improvement following chiropractic spinal manipulation. As part of the literature review, published in the March/April 2007 issue of the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, the researchers reviewed nine previously published trials and found “high-quality evidence” that patients with chronic neck pain showed significant pain-level improvements following spinal manipulation. No trial group was reported as having remained unchanged, and all groups showed positive changes up to 12 weeks’ post-treatment. For more research supporting chiropractic, click here.
At Balanced Life Health Care, you Chiropractor will develop a program of care that may combine more than one type of treatment, depending on your personal needs. In addition to manipulation, the treatment plan may include mobilization, massage or rehabilitative exercises, or something else