Like low back pain, neck pain is one of the most common conditions we see as chiropractors. We move our necks almost constantly throughout the day without even thinking about it – we take for granted that we will always be able to do it! It is only when that terrible moment arrives, when we find we have a “crick” in our neck and the unbearable pain that usually follows it, that we realize that something is wrong.
Not much force is needed to disrupt the delicate balance of head-on-neck. Often we find that we have arm pain or numbness and tingling in the hands that is actually caused by a problem in the neck; many times we may not even be aware of when the damage occurred. There are several areas of the body that can be affected by even a slight twist or injury, or simply from poor posture during a work (or play) activity requiring deep concentration.
We often see headaches, muscle spasms in the shoulders and upper back and ringing in the ears associated with problems in the neck. The neck and upper back tend to work hand in hand due to the nature of the soft tissue connections between them.
So What Causes of Neck Pain?
Most of the time it is a combination of two or more of the following:
• Vertebral subluxations (see below)
• Poor posture
• The discs between the spinal vertebrae
A Subluxation is a mis-alignment in the joints and vertebrae of the spine that causes the joint to lose it’s normal bio-mechanical motion. Subluxations in the neck and upper back area are extremely common due to the high degree of stress associated with holding up your head. Chiropractors correct subluxations by applying a specific force on the subluxated vertebra to restore the normal motion and position – this is known as an adjustment.
The way we sit, the way we stand, even the way we sleep in bed all add to the possibility of neck pain. Being unaware of the correct posture we should be maintaining on a daily basis eventually adds up to neck and back pain. So, what can we do about it? A simple rule to follow is to keep the neck in a “neutral” position. In addition remember not to hunch or bend forward of the body’s centre of gravity for long periods of time. If your work requires remaining sedentary for long periods of time, ensure that your back is supported and that your knees are slightly below your hips and if at all possible, get up and walk around for a bit every 15 to 20 minutes.
Whiplash is a very common form of neck injury. It is typically the result of a car accident but can be caused by sporting injury or other sudden event that creates a sharp movement of the head forward, backward or sideways. These types of injuries should be examined and treated as soon as possible as they can have very long-lasting effects if ignored. Any such injury needs to be taken very seriously and should be looked at by a chiropractor so that it may be accurately diagnosed and treated. One complication of any delay before getting the injury checked can result in permanent damage to the affected area.
Stress itself has many causes, one of which is an instinctive reaction human beings have to danger – physical danger in particular. This reaction is called “muscle-guarding” and is the body’s way of protecting our major organs against injury. Under emotional pressure (stress) we unconsciously tense our muscles – it is largely our back muscles that undergo this tensioning effect. As a consequence the most affected regions are the neck, the lower and upper back.
To help alleviate stress, exercise on a regular basis; you can easily achieve this by walking for half an hour each day or, as a minimum, even just three days each week. If you know how to breathe correctly you can also ease stress generally by deep breathing – a few deep breaths, gently in through the nose, smoothly out through the mouth. Practice this regularly and you will quickly discover that this method alone can reduce the stresses you feel and those of which you are not even consciously aware.
Schluter Chiropractic works on the principle of reducing interference so the nervous system and body can work better. Providing that any symptom or condition (including pain) is occurring as a result of nerve interference from vertebral subluxation, there is a very good chance that it will improve with chiropractic care.