03/02/2023 by Dr. Goldi Jacques-Maynes
Less Neck Pain for a Better Quality of Life
Neck pain can make life extremely difficult. It’s not just that your neck hurts, you also have a hard time moving and taking care of everyday tasks. That leads to a lot of frustration and delays in getting things done.
There are a few ways neck pain makes life more difficult. Neck pain can:
- make it hard to focus
- limit your movement
- limit your flexibility
- make it hard to turn your head
- make it hard to reach for objects
- make it hard to sleep
- cause headaches and migraines
The symptoms of neck pain can range from mild to severe. It can feel like a dull ache or a persistent stiffness that worsens as you move. Some of our patients even describe a sharp, stabbing pain that radiates to their shoulders, arms or head.
Whether intense or mild, neck-related pain can really make you miserable. Happily, chiropractic can provide neck dysfunction relief, and help prevent more pain in the future.
What causes neck pain and dysfunction?
Sometimes your feel the pain in your neck, sometimes you're feeling pain that's not in your neck, but is caused by your neck's dysfunction. That's because your neck is the pathway from your brain to the rest of your body, so when it's not healthy or functioning properly, you're going to have issues.
How does the neck work?
The neck’s job is to support and move your head, as well as relay messages between your body and your brain. From a musculoskeletal perspective, your neck houses the spinal column and muscles that help you move and create awareness of your body and the world around you.
The spinal column in your neck consists of seven small vertebrae called the cervical spine. These vertebrae are separated by soft, spongy discs that act like shock absorbers, allowing your neck to move freely.
The spinal cord that runs through your spinal column is a bundle of nerves that carries messages from your brain to the rest of your body. When your neck is functioning properly, you're able to move, feel, and interact easily because all those messages are being relayed and you've got freedom of movement. When your neck can't move or relax, or it's injured, it limits your movement and makes you feel horrible.
Neck pain and dysfunction are related to quite a few—often surprising—conditions.
Sometimes the pain and discomfort are in your neck. Sometimes the pain and discomfort are elsewhere, but the cause originates in your neck. Here are some of the more common neck-related conditions we see in our office:
- Tension headaches: Dull, aching pressure or tightness in your head or neck. When your neck muscles are tight or strained, they can create tension in the muscles of your scalp and forehead. The nerves that supply sensation to your neck and head are interconnected, as well. Irritation or inflammation in your neck can cause pain in your head.
- TMJ disorder: Pain, stiffness, and difficulty using your jaw due to dysfunction with the joint connecting the jawbone to the skull. Tightness or spasm in your neck muscles can lead to a jaw misalignment.
- Migraine headaches: Intense, throbbing pain on one side of your head, and/or sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, and vomiting. People with migraines can also feel neck pain or stiffness from muscle tension or trigger points in the neck and shoulders.
- Shoulder (upper trapezius muscle) pain: When this muscle becomes strained or tight, it can cause pain and discomfort in your neck. Neck injuries like whiplash can also cause muscle strains or trigger points that lead to chronic pain and discomfort.
- Text neck: Neck pain or stiffness from constantly looking down at a screen. Poor screen-related posture can put stress on your neck muscles and ligaments.
- Torticollis (aka wry neck): When your head is tilted to one side while your chin is rotated to the other side. Torticollis can cause pain, stiffness, and limited range of motion in your neck. The muscles that control neck movement are innervated by the cervical spine. Abnormalities in this region can cause torticollis.
- Degenerative joint disease (DJD), aka osteoarthritis: The joints between the vertebrae of your cervical spine are called facet joints. These joints can become worn or damaged over time. The symptoms of DJD in the neck may include neck pain and stiffness.
- Injury to the brachial plexus: the brachial plexus is a network of nerves that originates in your neck and travels into your arms. Neck injuries like whiplash can cause compression or stretching of the brachial plexus, leading to pain, weakness, or numbness in the arms.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS): Primarily associated with the median nerve at the wrist, CTS can also be related to the neck. The nerves that supply sensation to your hand and wrist originate in your cervical spine.
- Poor posture: Causing muscle imbalances, joint stiffness, and nerve compression, poor posture can cause pain, discomfort, and limited range of motion in your neck.
- Mom shoulders: When your shoulders creep higher and higher toward your ears. This comes from super tight and tense shoulder and neck muscles. Mom shoulders can also make it difficult to turn your head while driving.
How does chiropractic help with neck pain?
Chiropractic is the least invasive treatment for neck pain. Our chiropractors use a variety of techniques to help you manage neck pain, which could include:
- Manual adjustments to improve the mobility and alignment of your cervical spine, and reduce pain and stiffness.
- Soft tissue release to relieve muscle tension and promote relaxation.
- Lifestyle adjustments to address contributors to your neck pain, like poor posture or repetitive movements.
- Neck pain relief exercises to improve strength and flexibility in your neck and upper back muscles.
- Treatments for nerve problems that may be contributing to pain, numbness, or tingling in your neck and arms.
How do chiropractors diagnose neck pain?
Our chiropractors usually start by taking a comprehensive medical history and conducting a physical examination. We may perform range of motion testing, muscle strength and reflex assessments, and orthopedic tests.
We may also refer you for imaging tests, such as X-rays or MRIs, to identify structural abnormalities or nerve compression.
How long will it take for my neck pain to go away?
The duration of treatment for your neck pain depends on the underlying cause. Acute neck pain caused by muscle strains or spasms may resolve within a few days with appropriate treatment. Neck pain caused by poor posture may improve in a few weeks.
Chronic conditions may require ongoing management to alleviate symptoms and prevent further damage. Treatment may involve a combination of chiropractic care, physical therapy, and pain management.
Once we examine and diagnose your condition, we can provide you with a more accurate estimate of the duration of your treatment.
Need relief from neck pain right now?
If you're currently suffering from neck pain, our chiropractic clinic in Aptos is ready to help. Our chiropractors are experienced in managing various causes of neck pain and can provide individualized treatment plans. Booking your appointment online is quick and easy—click here to schedule.