Neck pain, whether chronic or acute, is never much fun. Fortunately, there is a cause and if the cause is identified, it can be treated. We see patients with all types of neck pain on a daily basis and once we identify the cause, we are then able to successfully treat the neck pain.
Our approach to the treatment of neck pain involves a combination of the following care, obviously dependent on the cause of the pain:
- Chiropractic Adjustments
- Intersegmental Traction Therapy
- Physical Therapy
- Kinesiology Taping
- E-Stim Therapy
Causes of Neck Pain: Injury & Poor Posture
The two most common causes of neck pain we see are either trauma or poor posture. Although both involve similar treatment, the techniques are different because one is dealing with injury to tissue and one is dealing with tightness in tissues.
Auto accidents cause whiplash, and whiplash causes a whole host of problems. Not only does it tear the muscles and ligaments in your neck, but it also causes what is called facet syndrome. The facet joints are what chiropractors adjust and are located at each vertebral level. By the way, it is okay to get adjusted immediately after an auto accident. In fact, it is important to seek care after an auto accident so that you don’t develop loss of cervical curve over time and the resulting chronic neck pain.
When you experience whiplash, the facet joints compress violently, resulting in irritation in the joints. This irritation can sometimes aggravate nearby nerves resulting in sharp shooting pain down the arm as well as muscle spasm in the neck. When the nerves get irritated, this is what triggers the neck stiffness after an auto accident. This is a protective mechanism as your body is trying to stabilize the area of the neck that was just injured.
Our treatment in auto accidents involves e-stim therapy to relax the muscle spasm and muscle guarding. We then utilize gentle adjustments to the facet joints. This breaks up adhesions in the neck and improves cervical curve which over time helps prevent degenerative disc disease, aka arthritis in your neck. Again, keep in mind that the adjustments after an auto accident are different than the adjustments from let’s say sleeping on your neck wrong. That’s the beauty of chiropractic care as the technique is modified to fit the current need of the patient.
We then do some physical therapy on the muscles in your neck and upper back. We utilize a technique that involves a certain kind of stretch to the muscles which “tricks” your brain into letting the muscles relax. This helps tremendously with the muscle spasms that occur after an auto accident.
Finally, we often times will finish the visit with some Rock Tape to the effected muscles so that the area is stabilized. Rock Tape is a kinesiology tape often seen worn by professional athletes. The tape helps relax tight muscles and can also help correct posture. When used after a car accident, it can help prevent any future muscle spasms/guarding.
Poor Posture/Text Neck/”Sleeping on Neck Wrong”
Poor posture puts significant stress on the spine and the joints of the spine. The reason being is the metaphorical bowling ball that sits on top of your shoulders. Whenever your head shifts forward, such as working on a computer, looking down at your phone, etc., this puts increasing pressure on the discs between each vertebrae. This added pressure causes the joints and the discs to degenerate at a faster rate than normal leading to arthritis in your neck.
Mild degeneration is common as we age, however, we are now seeing on x-ray moderate to severe degeneration in patients in their 20s. This is not normal and can be prevented with proper posture and correcting the existing problem with chiropractic care, physical therapy and muscle work. If left untreated, degenerative disc disease ultimately leads to chronic nerve compression and the associated chronic pain. If severe enough, surgery may be the only option.
Poor posture also causes muscle imbalances and a condition known as upper cross syndrome. Upper cross syndrome is a combination of tight pectoralis muscles, tight suboccipitals, tight upper traps and levators as well as weakness of the deep neck flexors and rhomboids. Stretching the tight muscles and strengthening of the weak muscles is the best treatment for this condition.
One of the first things we do for poor posture is e-stim therapy. We utilize either Russian stim or interferential e-stim therapy which both forms are designed to relieve tight muscles as a result of the poor posture. We then follow this up with adjustments to the upper back, neck and shoulders. All adjustments help relieve stress on the joints and discs in the neck/cervical spine. This, in turn, will also relieve muscle tension due to the poor posture.
One of the things we like to do with every visit is some sort of physical therapy. Working the muscles is just as important as adjusting the joints in your spine. In the case of poor posture, muscle imbalances are inevitable and upper cross syndrome is very common. We do a lot of stretching and strengthening of the particular muscles that cause upper cross syndrome. By correcting the muscle imbalances, we start the process of reversing the ill effects of poor posture.
Finally, kinesiology taping is effective treatment for correcting posture as well. We can actually apply the tape in a way that gives you responsive feedback when your posture starts to slack. The tape can actually stay on for 5+ days making it a great option for correcting posture.
In the end, poor posture results in muscle imbalances, which leads to excessive stresses on the joints in the neck which leads to restrictions in the cervical spine. Over time, the spine starts to break down resulting in more pain and chronic neck pain. Through chiropractic, physical therapy, and muscle work, we are able to address each layer of the cause of the problem resulting in great results and you feeling better overall.