Neck pain is one of the most prevalent problems that I see in the office. It usually comes on through some unfortunate sleeping position, repetitive stress, or a trauma. The pain is also frequently associated with forward head posture stemming from long term computer or phone use. The pain can be sharp, dull, aching, and deep all at the same time. Neck pain sometimes will radiate to the arms or to the head. I frequently see upper neck pain that causes headache.
I also see lower neck pain that causes pain in the upper back and into the arms. Neck pain, if left untreated can lead to degeneration and arthritis. Some of the arthritic necks that I have seen have made it difficult to turn the head or look up. The pain seems worse because you move the neck with every activity.
Treatment of Cervicalgia
Treatment for neck pain (aka cervicalgia) starts with the less invasive manipulation of the vertebrae to restore normal motion. The adjustment repositions the vertebrae allowing the joints to glide more easily and the pain goes away in a fairly short period of time with restored movement. With more serious neck conditions there can be neurologic involvement that radiates to the arms, hands or to the head. These neurologic conditions require time to heal and need several adjustments to reposition the vertebrae and reverse muscle memory. Ancillary procedures including electric stim, ultrasound, or laser therapy may be required to reverse this type of condition. Frequently, neck exercises will be prescribed to strengthen the muscles of the neck and reduce adhesions and scarring.
You can also damage neck discs. An assessment of the degree of damage is necessary to determine the course of treatment. Your disc can avulse some material into the spinal canal where it freely floats and can compromise other structures. We can make a referral if required for disc damaged that doesn’t respond to chiropractic care. In this case, surgery is the only option. Most disc problems respond to careful manipulation and can heal or “scar over” the bulging area in time.
I see a lot of people “cracking” their own neck. The problem with this self adjusting is that the body releases enkephalins (the body’s form of morphine) which feel really good. The result is that cracking the neck happens 20 – 50 times per day. Once this habit starts, the self adjuster wants to keep going and the neck discs and ligaments can be permanently damaged. Over time, arthritic changes will happen to stabilize the neck.. Another problem is that it rarely moves the segment of the spine that is in need of being moved.
The best course of action when having neck pain, is to have a qualified physician evaluate the condition. Whether a chiropractor or a medical doctor, they will determine the source of the pain and the proper treatment. Your neck is vitally important to your everyday activities, take care of it.