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Neck pain affects 15.1% of the United States’ general population every 3 months and ranks fourth in global disability. Because of the tendency for neck pain to become a chronic issue, it is important to identify risk factors that could encourage prevention and early diagnosis.

15.1% of the United States general population is affected by neck pain every 3 months. This puts neck pain at 4th in global disabilities. Due to the constant stressors and high use of our cervical region, it is important to find the root cause of an individual’s neck pain prior for it to become a chronic issue. Neck pain can come from a variety of different source tissues including muscles, joints, and ligaments. Everyday wear and tear on your body can also affect your neck with the biggest component being your daily posture.

With the increased use of cell phones and computers, individuals’ posture is becoming more forward-headed and rounded shoulders, reversing your natural lordotic cervical curve. This posture then is causing increased stress and pressure on your cervical spine and muscles to keep your head up. Physical therapy interventions of manual and therapeutic exercises will help reduce the impairments involved in an individual’s neck pain symptoms.

Source:

Kim R, Wiest C, Clark K, Cook C, Horn M. Identifying risk factors for first-episode neck pain: A systematic review. Musculoskelet Sci Pract. 2018;33:77‐83. doi:10.1016/j.msksp.2017.11.007

How Chiropractic Works To Eliminate Neck Pain

  • Posture
  • Losing curve loses the ability for function
  • Reversed cervical curve
  • Immobility

Neck pain is a common condition that we see in our office. It has some of the most mobile joints in our bodies and if those joints are not functioning properly, or at all, it can lead to pain and other symptoms. “Among US residents, 50% to 70% will experience neck pain at least once in their lives, as many as one third are affected each year, and about 10% suffer from neck pain at any given point in time” (Hurwitz, 2002). Having joints immobility leads to muscle tension, fatigue, and inflammation in that area which leads to pain. When chiropractors feel the patient’s neck, we are looking for joints that are fixed or not moving properly. With spinal manipulation, we put motion back into those joints which allows the musculature that is attached to function properly leading to decrease stress and tension.

Posture is a big indicator for how a neck will function and feel in the long-term. With more people working behind a desk and with more people looking down at their phones this has led to an increase in neck pain and the introduction of losing the natural, important (lordotic) curve in our necks. There are 3 natural curves in our spine and if we lose one of those curves it decreases our ability to resist gravitational forces by 50%. If all curves are normal, we have a value of 10 (3² + 1 = 10), so if we lose the curve in our neck, we have a value of 5 (2² + 1 = 5) or half of the ability to handle everyday stressors (Morningstar, 2005).

By getting regular chiropractic adjustments, we can work on influencing the cervical curve back in the right direction and increasing the mobility of the joints.

With better posture, consistent exercises and stretches for the neck, and regular spinal manipulations by a chiropractor there is a high likelihood of decreased neck pain and tension.

Sources:

Eric L. Hurwitz, Hal Morgenstern, Philip Harber, Gerald F. Kominski, Fei Yu, and Alan H. Adams, 2002: A Randomized Trial of Chiropractic Manipulation and Mobilization for Patients with Neck Pain: Clinical Outcomes from the UCLA Neck-Pain Study American Journal of Public Health 92, 1634_1641, https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.92.10.1634

Morningstar, M.W., Pettibon, B.R., Schlappi, H. et al. Reflex control of the spine and posture: a review of the literature from a chiropractic perspective . Chiropr Man Therap 13, 16 (2005). https://doi.org/10.1186/1746-1340-13-16

How To Tell Why I Have Neck Pain

One of the most important aspects of treating neck pain is the initial examination. Taking a good, detailed history is where we start. This allows us to get a good picture of the original cause of the neck pain. Sometimes we find that a patient’s neck pain has been brewing for years because of certain events or micro events that have happened such as a significant car accident or sports injury or sitting at a desk 8 hours a day for 10 years.

Our examination can include a lot of things, here are a few aspects that are common at our clinic: palpation of the spine, checking of muscle tone, range of motion, orthopedic tests, neurological tests (sensation, reflexes, muscle testing), functional movements, posture assessment, and x-rays.

One of the more advanced tools that we have at our disposal is digital x-rays. Digital x-rays are a great tool that is safe and uses a very low dose of radiation. X-rays can help us evaluate the cause of one’s neck pain. It can show many things but here are a few: arthritis, the spacing between the vertebrae (disc degeneration), fracture, and other more rare conditions such as cancer. Taking a good history and evaluation will allow us to know if x-rays are necessary. A few reasons that x-rays are recommended are if one had recent trauma, neurological symptoms (pain or sensations going down one’s arm), intense symptoms that have been present for a longer period of time, history of spinal surgery, or suspected deformities such as scoliosis.

If we decide not to take x-rays, a posture screening using digital technology and functional movements will allow us to look at the biomechanical stresses off one’s posture and mobility. This can help us hone in on the root causes of a person’s neck pain.

Why We Take X-Rays On Patients With Neck Pain

One of the most important aspects of assessing neck pain is the initial examination. Neck pain can come from various reasons and performing a detailed history, examination, and x-rays are used to figure the root cause of neck pain. Sometimes we find that someone’s neck pain has been slowly built over time through microtraumas like poor posture or repetitive movements at work. Other times we find it was a specific traumatic incident that caused the neck pain like a car accident, sports injury, or fall.

One of the most advanced tools we have at our disposal is digital x rays. Having x rays is a great tool for the provider to get a better picture of what could be causing someone’s neck discomfort. An x-ray can show many things but here are a few: Arthritis, Disc degeneration, Curve changes, vertebral misalignment, fractures, and other rare conditions. Having x-rays on-site helps us in evaluating the patient to know what treatment is going to be best for that patient.

We have numerous forms of treatment depending on the cause of neck pain and x-rays allow us to get more specific. We will also know if chiropractic care is right for that individual or if a referral to another doctor would be needed.