The neck, medically referred to as the cervical spine, starts at the base of the skull and consists of seven vertebrae. It supports the full weight of your head and can move it in virtually all direction. However, this flexibility makes the neck prone to pain and injury.
Neck pain is quite common and tends to be very bothersome. Fortunately, it is rarely a symptom of a more serious underlying problem. You’ll need to seek medical attention if the pain is associated with numbness or loss of strength in your arms.
Here are the most common causes of neck pain:
- Holding head in one position such as when you’re hunched over the computer for an extended period or during long-distance driving.
- Poor posture since it can strain muscles and connective tissues that support the cervical spine. The ‘head-and-shoulders-forward’ posture is by far the most common example that contributes to neck pain.
- Growing old is also a contributing factor for the development of neck pain. As you age, your neck joints gradually wear down. Osteoarthritis causes the intervertebral dics to deteriorate. Spinal stenosis may develop and bone spurs can form, affecting joint motion and subsequently causing pain.
- Injuries like rear vehicular collisions frequently cause whiplash injury, which results from the sudden, unrestrained forward and backward movement of the head and neck.
- Nerve compression caused by bone spurs or herniated intervertebral discs. These can exert undue pressure on the nerves that branch out from the spinal cord. The greater the compression, the more intense is the pain.
- Diseases and disorders like tumors, rheumatoid arthritis, and meningitis can also cause neck pain.
Symptoms of Neck Pain
- Headache, facial pain, shoulder pain, and upper extremity paresthesia
- Decreased ability to move your head
- Muscle tightness and spasms
- Pain that is often aggravated by holding your head in one place for long periods, as mentioned in the preceding section
- Numbness, tenderness, tingling sensation, restricted range-of-motion, dizziness or lightheadedness, difficulty swallowing, and lymph node swelling.
How a Chiropractor Can Help with Neck Pain
Your chiropractor will conduct an objective evaluation of your spine in its entirety because other areas like the mid-back (thoracic) and low back (lumbar) may also be affected. This allows him to identify areas of restricted movement. He will also examine your gait pattern (i.e. your manner of walking) along with your spinal alignment and overall posture. These will help him understand and identify certain abnormalities in your body mechanics.
Aside from the physical exam, you will also be asked about your past medical history, and your chiropractor may request imaging tests (X-ray, CT-scan or MRI) to help him diagnose the precise cause of your neck pain.
All of the aforementioned steps in the diagnostic process will provide your chiropractor with more insight about your neck pain. These will help him devise a treatment plan that is customized for your particular condition.
Chiropractic Neck Adjustments (Cervical Manipulation)
Cervical manipulation (also known as neck adjustment) is a specialized procedure used for the joints of the neck. Typically applied manually, it is meant to restore range of motion and improve the mobility of the cervical spine. Patients usually report an improvement in their ability to turn and tilt their head, along with a significant reduction in pain, soreness, and stiffness.
As part of the treatment plan to address neck pain, your chiropractor may utilize a combination of spinal manipulation procedures, manual therapy, and other related techniques.
Some of the spinal manipulation procedures include the following:
- Flexion-distraction technique – it aims to increase spinal motion and resolve disc herniations and disc bulges. It is a gentle form of spinal manipulation that has been shown to reduce intradiscal pressures by as much as -192 mmHg and enlarges the spinal canal by up to 28 percent
- Instrument-assisted manipulation – as the name suggests, this technique makes use of a hand-held instrument that enables your chiropractor to apply force without necessarily thrusting into the cervical spine.
- Specific spinal manipulation – this helps restore joint mobility by using a series of gentle thrusting movements.
Manual therapies may also be used by your chiropractor to treat your neck pain. They include the following:
- Instrument-assisted soft tissue therapy –this makes use of ergonomically designed instruments to locate restrictions, diagnose and ease muscle tension. The instruments enable your chiropractor to treat the affected area with the right amount of pressure.
- Manual joint stretching and resistance techniques – these help reduce restriction in joint motion, alleviate pain, and other related symptoms.
- Therapeutic massage–this promotes muscle relaxation, thereby reducing spasm and releasing chronic tension.
- Trigger point therapy -it is specifically designed to target the source of neck pain using cycles of isolated pressure and release on tight, painful points of a muscle.
Your chiropractor may also use other therapies to ease neck pain symptom
- Ultrasound Therapy– involves the use of sound waves that are transmitted to muscle tissue in order to reduce stiffness and pain. It provides deep heating which increases blood circulation. The heat delivers a soothing effect while increased circulation promotes healing of damaged or injures structures.
- Inferential electrical stimulation – this modality uses the physiological effects of low frequency (less than 250pps) stimulation of nerves without the accompanying painful and unpleasant side effects that are associated with low-frequency electrical stimulation. It is better tolerated by patients and has been shown to significantly reduce neck pain.
Therapeutic exercises may also be used by your chiropractor since they can help improve range of motion and prevent the progression of pain.
You are likely to encounter neck pain at some point in life. It can be an acute or chronic condition. Either way, it would be wise to seek proper treatment which largely depends on your diagnosis. Your chiropractor should be able to provide the much-needed relief so you can go about your normal routine.
In case you have questions about chiropractic treatment for neck pain, or wish to know if it’s right for you, please feel free to contact us at 905-882-1908. We look forward to helping alleviate your pain and get you in tip-top shape as soon as possible!