Our neck, also called the cervical spine, begins at the base of the skull and contains seven small vertebrae. The cervical spine supports the full weight of your head which is on average about 12 pounds. While the cervical spine can move your head in nearly every direction, this flexibility makes the neck very susceptible to pain and injury.
The neck’s susceptibility to injury is due in part to biomechanics. Activities and events that affect cervical biomechanics include extended sitting, repetitive movement, accidents, falls and blows to the body or head, normal aging, and everyday wear and tear. Neck pain can be very bothersome, and it can have a variety of causes.
Here are some of the most typical causes of neck pain according to the ACA:
- 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. 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.
- 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.
During your visit, I will perform exams to locate the source of your pain and ask you questions about your current symptoms and remedies you may have already tried.
Please be prepared to answer some of the following questions during your appointment:
1.) When did the pain start?
2.) Are you currently doing anything to treat your neck pain?
3.) Does the pain radiate or travel to other parts of your body?
4.) Does anything reduce the pain or make it worse?
A neck adjustment (also known as cervical manipulation) is a precise procedure applied to the joints of the neck, usually by hand. A neck adjustment works to improve the mobility of the spine and to restore range of motion. Patients typically notice an improved ability to turn and tilt the head as well as a reduction of pain, soreness and stiffness.
I 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 some other modality.
In some instances, I might order tests to help diagnose your condition. An x-ray can show narrowed disc space, fractures, bone spurs or arthritis. A computerized axial tomography scan (a CT or CAT scan) or a magnetic resonance imaging test (an MRI) can show bulging discs and herniations. If nerve damage is suspected, I may order a special test called electromyography (an EMG) to measure how quickly your nerves respond.
I am a conservative care doctor which means my scope of practice does not include the use of drugs or surgery. If I diagnoses a condition outside of this conservative scope, such as a neck fracture or an indication of an organic disease, I will refer you to the appropriate medical physician or specialist. I may also ask for permission to inform your family physician of the care you are receiving to ensure that your chiropractic care and medical care are coordinated properly.