Neck Pain: How Chiropractic & Cervical Spinal Decompression Can Help Provide Chronic Pain Relief
Neck stiffness and pain is a common ailment that affects many people in the United States. Not only does it have to support your head, which can weigh over ten pounds, it also provides the mobility and flexibility so you can look back, sideways, up and down! Imagine having to do all of that with such small vertebrae.
According to The Guardian, a study by the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington showed that neck pain, along with low back pain, cost Americans about $88 billion a year in medical treatment procedures.
Neck pain is one of the leading causes of disability, among other serious conditions, and can result in loss of mobility, careers, and even social lives. More people are actively seeking cost-effective, alternative treatment options to help ease the pain and to reduce medical bills associated with neck pain. If you are experiencing this type of pain, there are ways to effectively treat and ease the pain and discomfort.
Get To Know Your Neck
We all know where our neck is, but do you actually know what forms the neck and how it functions? Your neck is known as the cervical spine. It begins at the bottom of your skull and connects your head to your shoulders and upper torso.
Your neck consists of several important structures such as the cervical spinal cord, vertebrae (cervical bones), vertebrae discs, as well as ligaments, muscles, and nerves. It contains seven vertebrae which are much smaller than the ones in your spine. These vertebrae are surrounded by various types of muscles, among the jugular veins and carotid arteries, that provide support and range of motion for daily activities.
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What Causes Neck Pain?
The neck is extremely susceptible to stress, injury, and pain. If you think about it, the neck comprises a very small area of the body that has the duties of various important functions in addition to supporting the skull.
In general, a majority of neck pain symptoms are largely due to activities and incidents that impact cervical biomechanics. Some of these activities could include accidents, trauma to the head, extended immobility and a variety of other causes.
- Poor posture: Poor or incorrect posture can cause chronic neck pain that not only affects the neck, but also the spine and other surrounding areas. The strain from bad positions like bending your neck to one side for a long period of time or slouching while watching television can add stress to the neck muscles and joints. Bad sleeping positions and prolonged texting can also cause neck pain.
- Injury/Accidents: Automobile accidents that result in a “whiplash” effect to the neck or impact to the skull and neck can cause severe neck pain. Other accidents like falling or sports-related injuries can cause stress to the neck muscles, vertebrae, ligaments, and nerves. Pain and stiffness are often associated with the aftermath of such accidents and injuries as the neck muscles stiffen to try to provide extra support to the affected area.
- Herniated discs: Herniated discs occur when one or more vertebrae discs move or shifts out of position, causing inflammation and weakness to the neck. This can cause chronic neck pain and may affect other surrounding areas like shoulders and back.
- Spinal Stenosis: Stenosis happens when nerve roots are compressed, or experience added pressure when the nerve passageways close up or tighten. Pinched nerves can cause excruciating pain that radiates down to the arms.
- Degenerative discs: Intervertebral discs tend to bulge out over time as they degenerate. The effects are feelings of numbness or tingling throughout the neck and surrounding regions.
- Age & lifestyle: As we age, neck pain can also be a symptom of other medical conditions such as arthritis. Poor lifestyle choices can also cause neck pain. Being overweight or leading sedentary lifestyles can result in weak neck muscles that are easily over-stretched or tightened in strenuous activity.
A licensed and experienced chiropractor can provide the right treatment plan and options available to help ease your neck pain symptoms and potentially correct prevalent problems that could be causing your neck pain.
Chiropractic Care: The Beginning Of A Pain-Free Neck
Of the 35 million adults nationwide, who saw a chiropractor in 2016 and 62 million since 2011, 77 percent of those treated claimed that chiropractic care was “very effective.” A study in the British Medical Journal (2003) evaluated 183 patients that experienced neck pain and found that such treatment options were less costly and more effective. (Health, U.S. News)
All good chiropractors will begin by diagnosing your symptoms and performing physical examinations to determine the best treatment options to help reduce neck pain. Being honest about your medical history and physical lifestyle is important to help your chiropractor get an accurate diagnosis of the cause of your neck pain.
Several common questions a chiropractor might ask are,
- When did you first experience pain in your neck?
- Are you experiencing pain in any other areas around your neck?
- Have you had any recent accidents or injuries?
- Do you take any pain medication or use other forms of pain relief?
- How often do you experience the pain?
- On a scale of 1 to 10, rate your pain.
- Have you had any surgeries recently to treat the pain?
- What are some of your daily habits (i.e. posture, exercise, sleeping positions)?
Occasionally, a chiropractor may order additional tests and scans to further evaluate your pain symptoms, causes, or to better understand your physical and medical condition. These could include x-rays, CT scans, MRIs, or other testing methods available to access the extent of injury to the affected region or diagnose existing problems with your joints and ligaments.
How Can Chiropractic Help Your Neck-Related Pain?
Chiropractic treatment is non-invasive and does not include the administration of pain medication, drugs, or surgery. Chiropractic doctors are trained to treat problematic areas using gentle techniques that not only help relieve neck pain but can often treat the cause of neck pain. Treatment can also help ease pain from surrounding areas of the neck such as the shoulders and back.
You should see a chiropractor if your pain in your neck and discomfort has not improved on its own for several days. While most neck pain resolves itself and eases after a few days, prolonged pain that restricts your movements should not be ignored. Neck pain that begins shortly after an accident or injury can also be a sign of a more serious condition and needs to be diagnosed immediately.
Once your neck pain starts to inconvenience daily functionality and movements like turning to look out the side of your car or feeling numbness or tingling in your neck, back, or arms, it is best to call a chiropractor immediately.
Non-Surgical Cervical Spinal Decompression
Spinal decompression is an effective chiropractic treatment option that helps reduce the pressure between discs and relieving pain associated with herniated discs, spinal stenosis, or degenerative discs. Relieving the cervical discs of pressure helps promote the flow of blood and oxygen, aiding in the process of healing affected areas and immediately improves function in the neck region.
The technique is non-invasive and is a form of therapy that utilizes traction to treat pain in the cervical spine. It is pain-free and has a high rate of success. Many patients claim to doze off during the treatment session!
Licensed and experienced chiropractors administer neck adjustments, also known as cervical manipulation, to treat neck pain. This technique is safe and non-invasive, requiring no downtime before or after your treatment session.
Neck adjustments are performed in a chiropractor's office and aim at improving mobility and range of motion to the neck, spine, and surrounding areas. A chiropractor can adjust misaligned bones, increase circulation, and reduce joint stiffness using neck adjustments, and many patients claim almost-immediate relief and are able to turn their heads without extensive pain after treatments.
Activator IV reported that cervical manipulation can produce immediate benefits to treat cervical spine pain. In a controlled trial, several techniques of cervical manipulation were performed, and patients reported substantial pain decrease in the 7-day follow-up.
Alternating hot and cold therapy is a popular treatment option that relieves pain and swelling. Initially, cold therapy may be recommended for neck stiffness and pain to temporarily closes blood vessels to prevent swelling. Hot therapy may be recommended following or alternating hot and cold to help decrease swelling, followed by increasing blood and oxygen flow by opening up blood vessels.
Additional Treatment Options
Neck adjustments and non-surgical spinal decompression are often accompanied by other treatment options. Therapeutic massages or manual stretching of joints are common additions that can help relax neck muscles and reduce other symptoms of neck pain. Other options can include ultrasound, instrument-assisted manipulation, and soft tissue therapy that helps treat muscle tension.
Treatment plans vary and are recommended by your chiropractor based on your evaluation and examination results, the extremity of pain, and your current medical condition.
Many patients also report long-term benefits of continued and consistent chiropractic care. Chiropractic treatments typically occur every week at a chiropractor’s office and can vary between 8 to 12 weeks in length, sometimes longer depending on the gravity of the pain and your medical condition.
Benefits of Chiropractic Care For Neck Pain
Chiropractic care is a safe and drug-free treatment option that does not require any downtime from your daily activities or invasive surgery. It is quickly becoming the popular form of treatment for neck pain and other ailments as it effectively helps to reduce pain and treat problematic areas that commonly result in chronic pain and discomfort.Chiropractic care is a form of treatment that has been studied and documented for years and has proven to be effective, affordable, and pain-free.
There are numerous benefits that chiropractic care and treatment can provide, including:
- Short-term, immediate pain relief in the neck and surrounding regions
- Restores mobility and range of motion in the neck
- Improves nerve system functions
- Improves blood circulation
- Promotes quicker healing
- Reduces the effects of joint and tissue degeneration
- Corrects misalignments or problem areas in the neck
- Enhances daily lifestyle and physical activities
- Promotes a healthy lifestyle
- Enhances social health
- Improves mental health stability
- Long-term pain relief and care
Preventing Pain In Your Neck
While certain events or injuries cannot be completely avoided and are often unexpected, there are ways to prevent neck pain from aggravating or reoccurring after it has been treated.
- Maintain good posture each day. Make it a point to keep your neck and back straight while sitting or standing. Avoid slouching or staying in the same position for long periods of time.
- At work, ensure your computer and desk are at a comfortable relative to where you are sitting, and computer screens should always be at eye level.
- Get educated on good sleeping habits and positions. Sleeping with a pillow that is too high or flat can both be bad for your neck. Certain positions also constrict the neck in ways that can cause stiffness or strain.
- Exercise and keep a healthy lifestyle. Exercising can help strengthen neck muscles and increase blood circulation and oxygen flow throughout the body. By strengthening neck muscles, you are better able to support movements and functions.
- Treat emotional and mental stress. Stress is a huge contributing factor to neck pain. Many people experiencing emotional stress tend to experience neck pain that comes and goes. Pay attention to when your neck pain worsens and learn to associate the pain with other factors that you may be experiencing.
- Avoid awkward positions or stressing your neck in uncomfortable positions during the day and night.
Chiropractic care provides several advantages that do not require over-the-counter or prescription pain medication or invasive surgery. Chiropractors are trained professionals that take a holistic approach to treating neck pain and preventing reoccurring symptoms and pain.
Neck pain can be a serious, debilitating ailment that can negatively impact your daily life. You do not have to live with pain every day. Speak to a licensed and experienced chiropractor who cares today.
Having neck pain doesn’t mean you are doomed to a life of pain.
Let CORE Chiropractic help you get back on track with personalized chiropractic care, cervical spinal decompression and a custom treatment plan. Call today for your consultation, or schedule an appointment.