In my 19 years of practicing Chiropractic here in Fort Lauderdale, neck pain is either the primary or secondary symptom that I hear most often in my office. Rarely, do I have a consultation with a new patient and there is absolutely no complaint of neck pain. How or why could this be true? There is a very intricate web of detailed nerves that exit through the bones of the neck. These nerves are responsible for not just general muscle movement (picking up a bag of groceries) but also detailed fine motor movement (using chop sticks). So, let’s explore how common life experiences can drastically effect function and feeling on a daily basis.

Who can help me get rid of his pain in my neck?

How do you determine if your neck pain is from muscles, bones, or something more serious? At Dynamic Chiropractic we begin with a detailed consultation to have a starting point for further examinations and testing in (and outside of) the office. If, during the consultation, we determine that our office might be able to help we continue with a thorough examination. Since the bones of your neck are designed to completely encapsulate and protect the nerves that exit the spine, it is vital at this point to find out if your discomfort is caused from a bone, muscle, or something even more serious. This information is very important with deciding if Dynamic Chiropractic is the right place for you and if we can help or not. During the examination we will palpate or feel the movement of your spine. This removes the muscle involvement and allows us to specifically see how the bones move in relation to the ones above and below. Then we perform a range of motion test. This will actively use the muscles of the neck to see if there are any limitations. A posture evaluation will allow us to visually see if there is any potential global misalignments within the spine that are distorting your general posture (one shoulder higher than the other… head tilted to the side… one leg longer than the other… etc.). Finally, a complete X-Ray series is completed to objectively see and measure abnormal alignment of the spine. We all know that you can look relatively fine on the outside and be very sick on the inside. That is precisely why a picture is worth a thousand words at this point. If we find that we can help you with your neck pain, in addition to spinal adjustments to realign the spine, we will give you functional exercises and specific stretches relative to your individual needs to help work with the musculoskeletal component as we are moving the bones. We find that this “adjust it from all angles” approach seems to yield the best results the quickest.

6 Common causes of neck pain

Neck Strain

How many times have you said or heard someone say… “Oh man, I slept funny last night and now I have a stiff neck.” Neck strain is characterized with a stiffening of the neck, difficulty moving the neck, and pain with certain movements. Most people treat a neck strain with over the counter pain medication, heat rubs, slight stretching or massage of the muscles. These are great additional modalities to help the process along faster; however, it is vital to determine what caused the muscles to malfunction in the first place. Waking up with a stiff neck is not COMMON it is, however, a RED FLAG that something more serious is at play. Better to be safe than sorry.

Pinched Nerve

What is the difference between a neck strain and a pinched nerve? A pinched nerve would also be associated with numbness, sharp, shooting pain along the nerve pathway. It may even have a tingling, pins and needles sensation. It is extremely common that reoccurring neck strains progress in frequency and intensity until the patient finally gets a pinched nerve and can not ignore the symptoms any longer because the pain is debilitating. As long as the pinching on the nerve is from swelling of tissue or mild degenerative changes, we may be able to help reverse the condition or limit the progression of the damage in the future. Seeking specific chiropractic diagnosis at this time is vital to proper healing of this condition.

Arthritis

I would have to say that this is the most loosely used and most misunderstood reason for neck pain. There is no scientific evidence that arthritis is genetic. However, it can 100% be habitual. There are many different types of arthritis that are potential for the spine. I am sure you have heard of some of them: osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis, or cervical spondylosis (to just name a few). These are all very scary words. Different names for arthritis explains two things: where the arthritis is located and the characteristics of what the excess bone growth is doing to the surrounding tissue. I would like to break down the process of how arthritis comes about to empower you to stop it if you in fact have it… or… take control of your spinal health to prevent it from happening in the first place. When bones of the spine are misaligned and not functioning properly the body perceives that as an unstable situation. The only way that the body knows how to create stability within a joint is to calcify connecting tissues and create more bone in the area. That excess bone growth is defined as arthritis. How do you stop it? Go to a chiropractor who can help realign the bone structure to a more “normal” position so that the bone growth slows down or stops. How do you prevent the excess bone growth in the first place? Go to a chiropractor who can help realign the bone structure to a more “normal” position so that the bone growth is limited or never happens. Of course, many people opt for waiting and procrastinating to the point when the only option is risky surgery. That does not have to be your only option if you catch it early enough. Just don’t ignore the early signs.

Degenerative Disc Disease

This is probably one of the most common reasons for neck pain. So many people have trauma that they totally believe that they fully recover from because they have no more symptoms. This trauma could be in the obvious form of a car accident, sports in high school, a bad fall, or even a simple household accident. Maybe you experienced pain for a few days or even weeks then it went away. Great!!! I am all better. However, the damage is left undiagnosed and untreated. Therefore, years go by of wear and tear of a spinal segment that is not properly working leading up to degenerative disc disease, disc budges and disc herniations. Prevention and routine chiropractic checkups are so vital when it comes to degenerative conditions. Don’t be a victim… get a checkup.

Poor Posture

Your mother always knows best!!! Sit up straight. Hold your shoulders back. If we only had a dollar for every time we heard that one… right?! Well… there is something to be said for engaging the proper stabilizing muscles of the spine and core. By just performing three to four simple exercises each day, you have the opportunity to make big differences.

Injury (Whiplash)

Whiplash is a condition where the soft tissue (ligaments, tendons, and muscles) of the neck are damages with micro tears that initially result in a weakening of the stabilizing structures of the neck which causes pain. As you go through the healing process, those tears heal with fibrotic tissue. Fibrotic tissue is never as strong or stable as the original tissue. Therefore, many people who note having suffered with whiplash at one point in their life have reoccurring neck pain. Whiplash happens during a forward and backward quick jolting action of the neck when the body, however, staying in one place. It is most typical for whiplash to occur during a car accident. However, I have seen patient suffer with whiplash from a fall, roller coaster rides, or even a rough boat ride. If you think you may have experienced whiplash, you should seek the diagnosis and treatment from a chiropractor and a physical therapist right away. The sooner you begin treatment the better for your recovery.

5 Most Frequently Asked Questions about Neck Pain

Can neck pain be a sign of something more serious?

It is rare that neck pain alone could be a sign of a condition that is more serious. However, if your symptoms persist or worsen over a period of 7-10 days, seek medical help. Always remember that pain is a red flag from your body that attention is needed in an area. Ignoring early signs can lead to more complicated unnecessary conditions in the future.

How can I alleviate my neck pain?

Over the counter pain medications such as ibuprofen, Tylenol, or Aleve can give temporary relief to allow you to rest. Alternate ice and heat. Fifteen minutes on and fifteen minutes off. You can also do gentle stretches to work out the muscles of the neck to increase movement. These are all good and safe measures to take while you are waiting to be evaluated my your healthcare provider.

How should I sleep with neck pain?

Sleeping on your back and/or side is always preferred. When you are having a flare up of neck pain, sleep on your back with adequate support of your neck. Too little support will cause the neck to flop backwards. Too much cushion will push your neck forward further aggravating the muscles.

When should I worry about neck pain?

Seeking medical help sooner than later is always a good key for prevention. It is always better to be safe than sorry. However, if you try to manage your discomfort on your own with over the counter pain medication and nothing is working for a period of 7-10 days it is a good idea to get help right away. Additionally, you should seek additional help if your condition is not getting better or even getting worse, if you begin to experience numbness or tingling down one or both arms, if you begin to loose muscle control of your hands, or if you experience headaches.

Is neck pain a sign of a stroke?

Strokes usually happen suddenly but your body will most likely give you signs ahead of time that there is a problem. Most stroke patients complain of having a very bad headache before a stroke happens. These types of headaches come on quick and strong. They can cause pain between the eyes and even a stiff neck. Due to blockage of blood flow, patients also usually noted a sudden feeling of fatigue, dizziness and weakness. Understanding whether you are at risk for a stroke or not will help you be aware of the early signs ahead of time.

In conclusion, I believe that our biggest take away from this is that neck pain is an early red flag of what most people find to be a correctible problem. It is when patients ignore and forget about the neck pain and keep doing the things in their normal daily lives that is contributing to the problem, that they progress with their condition. These individuals find that the neck pain comes more frequent with higher intensely with each episode while taking longer and longer for the pain to go away. Obviously, the sooner a condition is evaluated and treated the better opportunity the outcome in the long term. Call your chiropractor… a simple x-ray could save you weeks, months or even years of suffering.