Conditions & Treatment

Neck Pain

Neck pain is a health problem affecting millions of Americans each year.   If you’ve ever woken up with a kink in your neck, suffered a whiplash injury, experienced chronic neck stiffness, felt popping and crackling whenever you move your neck around or suffer with chronic nagging pain in your neck that travels up into the back of your head, you know what I’m talking about.   It can be intensely irritating and cause a disruption in your ability to concentrate, sleep, play sports, read, do household chores or even watch TV.  

CAUSES OF NECK PAIN

There are a lot of things which can cause your neck to hurt.   The following are the most common ones I’ve found in my years of clinical practice:

Forward Head Posture:   The most common root cause of chronic neck pain is forward head posture.  As I described above, this is an issue where the head is too far in front of the rest of the body.   It’s a very common problem (some resources estimate that as much as 98% of the population has this to some degree).  Forward Head Posture (FHP) has gotten dramatically more common and dramatically worse since the advent of the personal computer.  People who work in front of a computer screen tend to lean forward.   Doing this 8 hours per day, 5 days per week, week in and week out can play havoc on your neck.


Abnormal Spinal Curves:    When viewed from the side, the spine should have a gentle “S” shaped curve.  The cervical (neck) area of the spine should curve forward.   Research has found that the normal shape of the neck is a 42 degree curve.   This curve is essential for protection, shock absorption, flexibility and normal gravitational loading on the joints and discs.  If you lose the curve in your neck, it sets the stage for premature wear and tear.  It also stretches and severely irritates the spinal cord itself (which can cause a whole host of problems).   A proper analysis of spinal curves requires a precise series of x-rays to be taken.  Doctors who are trained in advanced biomechanics will do a complex geometrical analysis of the spine and take precise measurements (down to the single degree or millimeter as to how far out of alignment you are).

Trauma:    An auto accident, slip and fall, the birth process, a sports injury or some other type of trauma can cause damage to the bones, joints, discs, ligaments, muscles and other connective tissues of the neck.   If you’ve been involved in any kind of mishap that resulted in trauma to your neck, you must get it checked by a chiropractor.   Chiropractors are uniquely qualified to evaluate, diagnose and treat neck problems due to trauma.  

Flexibility Problems:    Quite often I’ve encountered people who have chronic neck pain that is caused by a lack of flexibility.   The lack of flexibility may be due to a sedentary lifestyle, working too many hours in front of a computer, an old injury that was never properly treated or some other cause.  Muscles that are tight are prone to injury.  Stretching the neck muscles and restoring normal range of motion can often bring dramatic and long lasting relief from pain.  Not all stretching programs are safe or effective.  It’s incredibly important that you consult with a chiropractor to make sure what you’re doing is appropriate and safe.  An even better idea would be to have the chiropractor design a customized flexibility program.

Herniated Disc:   If you’ve suffered a disc herniation in your neck, you don’t necessarily need surgery.  Surgery is only appropriate in the most severe cases and/or in those cases which haven’t responded to physical medicine approaches (such as chiropractic, physical therapy, massage therapy, acupuncture, etc…).  In fact, most spine surgeons worth their salt will not consider operating on somebody unless they first have been through a few rounds of physical therapy.  Our approach to treating disc herniations is to restore the curve (which is often effective at reducing the herniation or eliminating it entirely).   We can also reduce or eliminate the muscle spasms which often accompany a disc herniation – and which may be responsible for the vast majority of the pain associated with the condition.  



Spinal Misalignment:   Your spine can become misaligned globally or segmentally.  What that means is that you can have a lot of bones out of alignment or only one.  If you have a single bone that’s out of alignment, that’s still enough to cause severe irritation to the nervous system.  And again, medications will not realign the vertebrae.   Only chiropractic can gently slip the bones back to where they need to be in order to take pressure off the nervous system. 

TREATMENT OPTIONS

Most people suffering with neck pain will typically go to a pharmacy for an over the counter medication such as Tylenol, Motrin or Aleve. These medications sometimes work to offer temporary relief.  However the problem usually comes back.  At this point, many people will call their family doctor for help.  The family doctor’s typical course of action will be to prescribe more powerful medications (such as a narcotic for the pain and muscle relaxers).  Again, this approach usually fails because the meds only serve to mask the symptoms.  They don’t actually cure anything.   It is the same thing as if a fire alarm went off because a building was on fire but you took a pair of wire cutters and cut the wire to the alarm.  You can’t hear the alarm any more so you think everything is just fine.  Meanwhile the building is burning down all around you.

While medications certainly have their place in health care, I am not a big fan of using them to treat musculoskeletal problems (such as back pain, neck pain, headaches, etc..) because they don’t really do much other than to mask symptoms.  They don’t actually cure you or go after the root cause of your problems.Instead of numbing your body with pain pills, a better choice is chiropractic coupled with rehabilitation.   Not all chiropractors do the same thing.  So it’s important to choose one who has the training and equipment to treat neck problems.   Call Dr. White at White Chiropractic about  your neck pain.  704-799-1416.