Your neck is the most vulnerable part of your spine. Not only does it support your 10 – 12 pound head, maintain a gentle forward curve, and permit head rotation, but it must also allow the free flow of nerve impulses to the head, face, hands and the rest of your body. Besides discomfort and annoyance, chronic neck pain is a sign that something is wrong.
Many everyday things can cause neck pain, such as watching TV, using your computer, reading a book or falling asleep in a chair or on an airplane. The temporary pain that results can resolve on its own, especially when the offending activity is discontinued.
When it doesn’t, a more serious underlying problem may be indicated.
A thorough examination can determine if you’re a good candidate for chiropractic care. These tests may involve your ability to turn and bend. Muscle tone of the supporting muscles in the neck may be tested. Diagnostic imaging to reveal the underlying structure of the spine may be requested. These and other tests are designed to identify the cause and location of your neck pain.
The most common cause of neck pain is functional distortions in the spine resulting from vertebral subluxations. These subluxations are seen in cases of reverse cervical curve, whiplash and joint instability. The body responds by tightening muscles in the neck, “splinting” the joint to protect it from further insult. Chiropractic care can help.
Most of the pain-sensing nerves in the neck are located in the pairs of facet joint on the back side of each vertebra. These smooth, interlocking surfaces allow you to rotate your head and bend your head up and down. If these joints become locked or fixated, neck pain can result. Chiropractic care can help restore proper joint motion.
A more difficult problem to correct is the degenerative changes that result from neglect. Years of uncorrected spinal problems can cause bone spurs, disc thinning and other forms of spinal decay. These types of problems respond more slowly, and some type of on-going supportive chiropractic care may be necessary.
Some patients see quick improvement and then immediately discontinue their care. They often suffer a relapse since muscles and soft tissues have not had time to fully heal. Others discover that degenerative changes to their spines make periodic checkups a worthwhile investment. We’ll make recommendations, but how long you benefit from chiropractic care is up to you.
According to a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine and funded by the National Institutes of Health, medication is not the best option for treating neck pain.
After following 272 neck-pain patients for 12 weeks, those who used a chiropractor or exercise were more than twice as likely to be pain free compared to those who took medication.
32 percent who received chiropractic care became pain free.
30 percent of those who exercised became pain free.
13 percent of those treated with medication became pain free.
“For participants with acute and subacute neck pain, SMT [spinal manipulation therapy] was more effective than medication in both the short and long term. However, a few instructional sessions of HEA [home exercise with advice] resulted in similar outcomes at most time points.”
Chiropractic is a team approach to better health.
Patient Media, Inc., 215 Sutton Lane, Colorado Springs, CO 80907.
J. Mercola, DO, Patient Media, Inc., Mercola.com Newsletter February 24, 2012.