Neck Pain Can Be a Real Pain in the Neck
By Dr Tim Fargo, Chiropractor
Next to lower back pain, neck pain is easily the second most common complaint seen in chiropractic offices. The causes range from simple muscle strain and imbalance to herniated discs and spinal fractures. Obviously, the range of appropriate treatment runs from doing nothing, or very little, to doing surgery.
If, for example, you fall on the ice or do too much yard work and end up with mild neck pain, then the source of your neck pain may well be pulled or strained muscles. Sometimes giving your neck a little rest will resolve the problem, and other times you may need therapies like massage, gentle stretching, and even chiropractic care. Because the muscles that are strained are attached to the bones of the spine and other parts of the skeleton, muscular injury and prolonged muscle imbalance can cause an alteration in spinal function. Delivering chiropractic adjustments to these affected areas can promote the healing and rebalance of affected muscles.
Neck pain can also result from more chronic degenerative conditions. When a person has experienced a significant loss of function over long periods the discs between the spinal bones (vertebrae) start to degenerate and the joints in the back of the spine can develop arthritis. The result can be neck pain. Unfortunately, sometimes years will pass before the person even knows they have these issues. The key with conditions like this is to be proactive and have an evaluation of your spinal function and particularly, given the current context, the function and architecture of your neck. This is something that chiropractors specialize in, and I can say unequivocally that we do a better job of assessing and alleviating your pain than anybody else out there.
When neck pain crosses over into the more severe realm it is because the degenerative process, or acute injury to the spinal discs, is causing pressure and irritation on the spinal nerve roots that exit between the vertebrae, and even the spinal cord which traverses the space directly behind the discs. Numbness, tingling, and weakness in the upper extremities can be a clue that it is not just an isolated neck problem but has progressed to being a nerve issue. In such cases, the neck pain must be properly assessed through physical/neurological examination, x-ray analysis, and even advanced imaging such as MRI. The doctors at Chiropractic Health and Wellness in Edina, Minnesota, are experts in the assessment and treatment of neck pain.
No treatise on neck pain would be complete without mentioning the postural/structural causes that underlie many muscular, spinal, and even neurological issues. It is no longer the case, in our information-age society, that many of us are actively using our bodies throughout the day. Rather, most of us spend our days sitting at desks in front of computers and then taking a break from “work” by texting on our cell phones. The result is that these lifestyle habits predispose us to neck pain because they create a chronic alteration in posture, loss of the neck curve, and forward positioning of the head in relation to the rest of the body. Think about how tired your arm would be if you had to hold a weight out in front of your body. Well, that’s how your neck and upper back muscles feel when your head is being projected out in front of your body. You might think that the age-old practice of carrying weight on top of the head would be hard on the neck, but strangely these folks have far fewer neck complaints than those sitting at their desks in front of a computer.
According to Dr. Kapandji, one of the foremost experts on spinal mechanics in the past 50 years, and as illustrated below, for every inch that your head is forward of its normal position, the weight of the head is increased by 10-12 pounds.
The result is that you are going to have chronic neck pain and you are going to end up with damage to your disks, your nerves, and even the spinal cord itself. Below is an x-ray of one of our patients with chronic pain and forward head carriage. Next to that image is how his x-ray looks after a few months of treatment including spinal adjustments, home exercise, and traction therapies designed to rebalance muscles and ligaments.
The image on the right does not depict a perfect neck, but it is significantly better than the one on the left. His head was initially forward 41mm and the curve was 8.9 degrees. Now his head is forward 13.9mm and the curve is measuring at 25 degrees. Research has shown that curves under 20 degrees predispose people to chronic neck pain. His neck and upper back pain has now completely resolved.
The doctors at Chiropractic Health and Wellness are experts at identifying the cause of your pain and then designing interventions that will resolve not only the pain but also its underlying causes. If you or a member of your family or friends suffers from neck pain, please call us today to schedule a consultation and evaluation.