Neck pain is an all too common condition that most people will experience at some point in there life. Although there are many different causes of neck pain, the three most common include: trauma, degeneration and posture. These conditions respond well to a combination of conservative therapy aimed at the neck and upper back.
Causes of Neck Pain
The most obvious cause of neck pain is that caused by trauma (think sports injuries or whiplash from an automobile collision). Neck pain caused by this can often times be very painful due to the high amount of tissue damage. These injuries may cause ligament, tendon or muscle damage. After trauma to these tissues, the body works to create inflammation, which will directly cause pain and muscle spasm. This is your body’s way to help you stabilize the neck so you don’t damage the tissue further. After the initial inflammatory process has passed, your neck may have some left over pain and movement restriction from the muscle spasm that can easily be worked on by a chiropractor.
Degeneration of the neck is most commonly seen as we age and after a traumatic injury. It is most associated with thinning and degradation of the intervertebral disc (which can turn into a disc bulge or herniation) that sits in between the vertebrae. Pain patterns seen with this may include numbness and tingling down the arms that may even extend into the hands or fingers. Many people confuse the symptoms of carpal tunnel (nerve pinched in the wrist) with those of an intervertebral disc bulge (nerve pinched in the neck). While both conditions are caused by a nerve being pinched, the nerve being pinched in carpal tunnel is in the wrist whereas the nerve being pinched in a disc bulge is in the neck. The symptoms are often times identical, but the treatments vary dramatically. Treatment in the wrist will not address the issue if it is in the neck!
The most common cause of neck pain that we see in our clinic is that due to prolonged poor posture. Due to our change in lifestyle habits, we find ourselves sitting for long periods of time either at the computer or behind the wheel of a car. As we sit slouched, we find our shoulders tend to round forward and our head begins to stick out further. This puts an incredible amount of pressure on the neck and upper back since they are effectively trying to pull the head back up all day! This posture can cause muscle tightness (to pull the head back up), but more importantly it will cause stiffness. Stiffness, or ‘joint restrictions’, are caused when the vertebrae lose proper mobility leading to neck and upper back achiness.
Treatment for Neck Pain
When it comes to neck pain, there are many conservative treatment options that can be utilized. For muscle spasms or “tight muscles”, we utilize two approaches: Myofascial Release and Instrument-Assisted Soft-Tissue Mobilization. While these both have fancy names, they essentially do the same thing (one just utilizes the doctors hands only, while the other uses a tool to do the work). These techniques are highly effective when it comes to helping relieve pain caused by a tight muscle. This is because they target the tissue surrounding the muscle, the fascia, and break it up allowing the muscle to work more freely and efficiently.
For pain caused by a disc bulge or a disc herniation, it is essential to mobilize the neck in a direction that causes the disc bulge to get off of the nerve (the reason why you get pain from these). The most effective way to do this is to be assessed by a doctor who specializes in Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy, which uses very specific movements to determine which way the neck should be moved to decrease pressure on the neck. Once this direction is found, it provides the doctor with much better information regarding which direction to mobilize the neck! This not only helps decrease the patient’s pain rapidly, but it decreases the amount of times the patient needs to come back to the doctor’s office!
Lastly, for neck pain caused by posture-induced stiffness, the treatment is easy: Movement! Usually, being in pain is an indication that you may need a little extra help getting the full range of motion that you more than likely lost from years of poor posture. This is where a Chiropractor can help! We take these restricted and stiff areas, and help them move better with a safe and effective chiropractic manipulation. We take the joint and help it get back to the full range of motion that it used to be in prior to the years of poor posture. Once you can get those stiff and restricted joints moving again, you are much more likely to start feeling better quickly!
What You Should Do
To get rid of neck pain, the most important thing you can do is get a proper assessment, treatment and functional movement program by a functional chiropractor. There is absolutely no reason to live with pain, take control of your symptoms and make an appointment today!