Your neck, or cervical spine, begins at the base of the skull and contains seven small vertebrae. Incredibly, the cervical spine supports the full weight of your head, which is about 12 pounds. While the cervical spine can move your head in nearly every direction, this flexibility makes the neck very susceptible to pain and injury.
Here are some causes of neck pain:
• Injury and accidents: A sudden forced movement of the head or neck in any direction and the resulting “rebound” in the opposite direction is known as whiplash. The sudden “whipping” motion injures the surrounding and supporting tissues of the neck and head. Muscles react by tightening and contracting, creating muscle fatigue, which can result in pain and stiffness. Car accidents are the most common cause of whiplash.
• Growing older: Degenerative disorders such as osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis and degenerative disc disease directly affect the spine.
• Osteoarthritis, a common joint disorder, causes progressive deterioration of cartilage. The body reacts by forming bone spurs that affect joint motion.
• Spinal stenosis causes the small nerve passageways in the vertebrae to narrow, compressing and trapping nerve roots. Stenosis may cause neck, shoulder and arm pain, as well as numbness, when these nerves are unable to function normally.
• Degenerative disc disease can cause reduction in the elasticity and height of intervertebral discs. Over time, a disc may bulge or herniate, causing tingling, numbness and pain that runs into the arm.
• Daily life: Poor posture, obesity and weak abdominal muscles often disrupt spinal balance, causing the neck to bend forward to compensate. Stress and emotional tension can cause muscles to tighten and contract, resulting in pain and stiffness. Poor posture can contribute to chronic neck pain with symptoms extending into the upper back and the arms.
During your visit, your doctor of chiropractic will perform an exam and ask questions:
• When did the pain start?
• What have you done for your neck pain?
• Does the pain radiate or travel to other parts of your body?
• Does anything reduce the pain or make it worse?
Your chiropractor will also do physical and neurological exams, observing your posture, range of motion and physical condition, noting movement that causes pain. Your doctor will feel your spine, note its curvature and alignment and feel for muscle spasm. A check of your shoulder area may also be performed. Your doctor may test your reflexes and muscle strength. In some instances, we might order tests such as an x-ray, CT/CAT scan or MRI.
A neck adjustment (also known as cervical manipulation) is a precise procedure applied to the joints of the neck, usually by hand. A neck adjustment works to improve the mobility of the spine and to restore range of motion; it can also increase movement of the adjoining muscles. Patients typically notice an improved ability to turn and tilt the head, and a reduction of pain, soreness and stiffness.
At Bronston Clinics, we will develop a program of care to meet your needs. In addition to manipulation, your treatment plan may include mobilization, massage or rehabilitative exercises. Contact us today to address that pain in your neck.