There are many connective components that can contribute to neck pain. That’s why many doctors are unclear where the real problem is coming from.
The neck is called the cervical spine. It has seven vertebrae and eight nerves that connect to the head, neck, shoulders and arms. The cervical spine usually has a curve to it.
When looked at from the side view. This curve is called a lordosis. This is similar in the lower back or lumbar spine. On top of the cervical spine sits your skull with brains and spinal cord weighing in at around 8 pounds. Yes, similar in weight to a bowling ball.
Cranial Nerves originate in the brain and some exit through the skull. One exits at the top of our cervical spine and runs over the top of the head from behind. Most cranial nerves are for our special senses (eyes/vision, ears/sound, nose/smell, tongue/taste, etc. ). But there are also major nerves to the lungs and digestive systems as well as controlling the upper trapezius muscles.The boney structures are retained in place by ligaments but the muscles are responsible for holding you erect and moving in all directions. Now, let’s add another significant component, the jaw. The jaw has the second strongest muscles in the entire human body. Now picture these structures integrated in a myriad of different muscles. Yes, it’s complicated.
Here is a short list of things that can aggravate your neck causing pain.
Poor posture whether it be standing or working at a computer, sleeping on your stomach, dental issues ( bite problems, infections, clenching), auto accidents, sport injuries, genetic variations such as scoliosis, degenerative discs and the resulting spinal misalignments called subluxations, shoulder injuries, foot problems, hip issues or even rib and thoracic spine alterations. That’s right, anything that throws your posture off enough to unlevel the shoulders can create neck pain even with a completely healthy cervical spine. Let’s call all of the above physical factors as well as emotional factors, STRESS. We have all heard that stress can kill you and it can also give you a pain in the neck!
After treating neck pain for the last 30 years or so it is our belief and procedure to try and correct as many of the postural and thus walking or gait issues that a person has in order to remove all the offending components we just described. By doing this, we restore the bodies normal biomechanics to as close to normal as possible, helping people with severe spinal issues return to a pain free and mobile life.
For example. It is very common to have arthritis in the spine. This is a sign of spinal degeneration, which happens when the vertebra are immobile for a significant period of time (spinal subluxations). When the X-ray or MRI report says arthritis, it does not mean that is where the pain is coming from. I can show you X-rays of the worst spinal arthritis and we frequently get that patient out of pain! Did we eliminate the apparent boney arthritic changes? No absolutely not. But the person feels better because you helped their body deal with the inflammation and were able to help their spine move again. This does not have to include manipulation. Sometimes it is better to mobilize than to manipulate.
Chiropractic manipulation versus mobilization.
Having treated trauma patients for the last 30 years I can tell you that for some manipulative services are a god send and for others mobilization is more appropriate. How do you and your doctor decide? This is a discussion for you and your chiropractor or Osteopath. In California we call this process informed consent. Any pros or cons should be discussed before any treatment is performed.
There are many factors here as well. I will keep this area brief if I can. If there are ligaments torn, spinal stenosis or fractures, manipulation should not be the first treatment protocol, but rather spinal mobilization either by had or with instruments. Many chiropractic specialists offer different spinal treatment regimes. If you have fears of manipulation you should seek a chiropractic specialist that can work without manipulation! Approximately 65% of my practice is comprised of people with significant spinal defects, and are better served by mobilization techniques. Besides chiropractors, Osteopaths also use spinal mobilization as a treatment tool. They are also very excellent doctors.