Neck Pain Relief and Chiropractic Care
The cervical spine (the part of your spine that makes up your neck), begins at the base of the skull and contains seven small vertebrae. Incredibly, the cervical spine supports the full weight of your head, which is on average about 5 Kilograms. While the neck allows you to 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 traumatic blows to the body or head, normal ageing, and everyday wear and tear. Neck pain can be very frustrating and has a variety of causes.
What are the causes of neck pain?
Some of the more typical causes of neck pain we see at Back Pain Relief Clinic are:
- Auto accidents and traumatic injury: A sudden forced movement of the head or neck in any direction and the resulting “rebound” in the opposite direction is known as whiplash. This sudden “whipping” motion can injure 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. When these nerves are unable to function normally. stenosis may cause neck, shoulder, and arm pain, as well as numbness.
- Degenerative disc disease can cause a reduction in the elasticity and height of intervertebral discs. Over time, a cervical 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 often extending into the upper back and the arms.
How can I get relief from Neck Pain
At Back Pain Relief Clinic, your chiropractor will perform several examinations to locate the source of your pain and will ask questions about your current symptoms and treatments you may have already tried. For example:
- When did the pain start?
- What have you done for your neck pain?
- Does the pain radiate or travel to other parts of your body?
- Does anything reduce the pain or make it worse?
Your Chiropractor will also do physical and neurological exams. In the physical exam, your doctor will observe your posture, range of motion, and physical condition, noting movement that causes pain. Your Chiropractor will feel your spine, note its curvature and alignment, and examine for evidence of muscle spasm. This examination will generally extend to the shoulder region also. During the neurological exam, your Chiropractor will test your reflexes, muscle strength, other nerve changes, and pain spread.
In some instances, your Chiropractor may order tests to help diagnose your specific 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, your Chiropractor may order a special test called electromyography (an EMG) to measure how quickly your nerves respond.
Doctors of Chiropractic are conservative care doctors; their scope of practice does not include the use of drugs or surgery. If your Chiropractor diagnoses a condition outside of this conservative scope, such as a neck fracture or an indication of an organic disease, they will refer you to the appropriate medical physician or specialist. They 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 properly coordinated.
A neck adjustment (also known as a 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; it can also increase the movement of the adjoining muscles. Patients typically notice an immediate improved ability to turn and tilt the head, and a reduction of pain, soreness, and stiffness.
Of course, your Chiropractor will develop a program of care specific to you. This may involve more than one type of treatment, depending on your personal needs. In addition to manipulation, the treatment plan may include mobilization, massage, laser, rehabilitative exercises, just to name a few.
What the Research Shows
A review of scientific literature found evidence that patients with chronic (long term) neck pain enrolled in clinical trials reported significant improvement following chiropractic spinal manipulation therapy. 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 therapy. No trial group was reported as having remained unchanged, and all groups showed positive changes up to 12 weeks post-treatment!
Another study, funded by the National Institute of Health and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2012, tested the effectiveness of different approaches for treating mechanical neck pain. 272 participants were divided into three groups that received either; spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) from a doctor of chiropractic, pain medication (over-the-counter pain relievers, narcotics and muscle relaxants) or exercise recommendations. After 12 weeks, about 57 percent of those who met with chiropractors and 48 percent who exercised reported at least a 75 percent reduction in pain, compared to only 33 percent of the people in the medication group. After one year, approximately 53 percent of the drug-free groups continued to report at least a 75 percent reduction in pain, compared to just 38 percent pain reduction among those who took medication.
Also, in 2012, research published in the Spine journal analysed the prevalence, patterns and predictors of chiropractic utilization in the U.S. general population. Whilst we are in Australia, it is a great sign that researchers found: “Back pain and neck pain were the most prevalent health problems for chiropractic consultations and the majority of users reported chiropractic helping a great deal with their health problem and improving overall health or well-being.”
At Back Pain Relief Clinic, your recovery is our primary concern and we will use all the evidence and tools at our disposal to ensure you enjoy lasting neck pain relief.