Our neck, also called the cervical spine or just spine, begins at the base of the skull and contains seven small vertebrae.
Believe it or not, the cervical spine is responsible for carrying the full weight of your head, which on average is 12 pounds (about 6 kilograms).
Although the cervical spine allows you to move your head in almost any direction, this flexibility makes it susceptible to neck pain and injury.
Typical causes of neck pain
Neck pain susceptibility is due in part to its bio-mechanics.
Activities and events that affect the cervical spine include long sitting, repetitive movements, accidents, falls and blows to the body or head, aging, and daily hustle and bustle.
Neck pain can be a serious problem caused by a variety of causes such as:
Injuries and accidents:
A sudden movement of the head or neck in any direction, and “bouncing” in the opposite direction is known as whiplash.
This sudden movement affects the areas and tissues around the neck, causing muscle fatigue, which results in pain and stiffness.
Severe whipping is also associated with injuries to the inter-vertebral discs, ligaments, muscles, and nerve roots.
Auto accidents are the most common cause of whiplash.
Degenerative disorders such as osteoporosis, spinal stenosis, and degenerative disc disease directly affect the cervical spine.
Osteoarthritis is a common disease of the spinal joints, which causes the progressive deterioration of cartilage. The body reacts by forming calluses of bone that affect the mobility of the joint.
This disease causes the nerve pathways of the vertebrae to narrow, compressing and trapping the nerve roots. Spinal Stenosis can cause neck, shoulder, and arm pain, as well as numbness when these nerves cannot function properly.
Degenerative disc disease:
This disorder can reduce the elasticity and length of the intervertebral discs. Over time, a disc can herniate, causing tingling, numbness, and pain that travels up the arm.
Poor posture, obesity, and weak abdominal muscles often upset the balance of the spine, causing the neck to bend forward to compensate. Emotional tension and stress can cause muscles to tense and contract. This results in pain and stiffness.
Postural stress can lead to chronic neck pain with symptoms spreading to the lower back and arms.
Chiropractic care of neck pain
During your visit, the chiropractor will perform tests to locate the source of your pain and ask you questions about your current symptoms and the remedies you have tried to try to reduce pain.
Some questions may be:
- When did the neck pain start?
- What have you done to treat neck pain?
- Does the pain radiate or travel to other parts of the body?
- What calms or worsens the pain?
- Your chiropractor will also perform physical and neurological exams.
On the physical exam, the chiropractor will look at your posture, range of motion, and physical condition, noting which movements cause the pain.
Also, it will feel your spine, notice its curvature and alignment, as well as muscle spasms.
A check of your shoulder area is also usual.
On the neurological exam, your doctor will test your reflexes, the strength of your muscles, changes in other nerves, and the extent of pain.
Occasionally, your chiropractor may send you to do tests to help diagnose your condition.
An x-ray for example, can show reduced disc spaces, fractures, calluses on the bones or even arthritis.
An axial computed tomography or MRI scan can show bulging discs or hernias.
Chiropractors are conservative care doctors and their scope of practice does not include drug use or surgery.
If your chiropractor diagnoses a condition outside of your conservative practice area. Such is the case of a neck fracture or organ disease, he will refer you to the appropriate doctor.
In addition, it can inform your treating doctor about the chiropractic care you receive. This ensures that medical treatment and chiropractic treatment are coordinated.
A neck adjustment – also known as cervical manipulation – is a precise procedure applied to the neck joints.
A neck brace works to improve mobility of the spine and restore range of motion.
It can also increase movement of the joint muscles.
Patients usually notice an improvement in head rotation and movement, and a significant reduction in pain and stiffness.
In addition to cervical manipulation, treatment may also include immobilization, massage, or rehabilitation exercises.
Do you have neck pain?
If you have neck pain and live in Maryland, you can make an appointment with one of our experienced chiropractors.
We have three clinics located in Gaithersburg, Silver Spring and Frederick, all with the highest hygiene standards.