Neck Pain Problems
Neck pain and its related conditions are extremely common. Many people are unaware that even non-symptomatic problems with their neck can cause or contribute to a number of common health problems like headaches, vertigo, TMJ pain, upper back pain, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Without a thorough understanding of the biomechanics of the neck, many problems are not properly addressed and treated, which only provides temporary symptom improvement at best.
Cervical spine, or neck, dysfunction can begin for a number of reasons and typically precedes outright pain. Some of these reasons may be related to improper posture, improper ergonomics, improper spinal alignment, altered breathing patterns, or trauma.
When improper posture and improper spinal alignment are the cause, the spine changes and adapts over time to compensate for the altered positions. This can go on for some time before symptoms begin to surface. Eventually, abnormal stresses and strains on the muscles and the spine can, and in most cases will, lead to an outright injury. By the time this happens, there may be much work to do in correcting these postural faults. Similarly, if ergonomic conditions are less than ideal, repetitive stresses and strains to joints and soft tissues will cause compensatory patterns to develop. Over time, this can lead to an outright injury with underlying altered biomechanics.
Humans are designed to breathe primarily from our belly, using our diaphragm to expand and contract the lungs to move air. However, a common pattern of dysfunction is seen when people begin to breathe from their chest. “Chest breathing” as this is known, causes an overuse of certain muscles of the neck, which will begin to alter the posture and function of the neck over time. Individuals with altered breathing patterns will not be able to fully recover from neck pain, or related issues, without first correcting this problem.
Trauma, such as from a fall or an automotive accident, can have long-term effects on the cervical spine. Car accidents in particular, even at low impact, can cause significant injuries. This is due to the complex forces experienced by the occupant at impact; the most commonly known injury being whiplash. These injuries can cause damage to joints, discs, ligaments, muscles and even tendons. The injuries then lead to altered biomechanics, which will typically not be restored without the proper corrective action. Even minor injuries can alter normal function, setting in motion a progressive pattern of dysfunction, of which symptoms may not be experienced by the person for weeks or even months. This is why an evaluation is essential after a motor vehicle accident, no matter how minor the accident and even in the absence of significant symptoms.
Problems related to an improperly functioning neck are common and may be debilitating. Many individuals suffering from health problems related to dysfunction in the cervical spine will seek treatment from healthcare professionals. Unfortunately, many healthcare professionals do not understand the role that altered spine function plays in these conditions. The result is the focus of treatment being placed on the symptoms instead of the cause of the problem. Some examples are prescribing pain medication for headaches, surgery for TMJ pain, surgery for a “pinched nerve” in the neck, and surgery for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
Neck Pain Solution
These problems are shown to often times have many contributing factors, including such issues as spinal joint dysfunction (AKA Subluxations), muscular imbalances, weakness in the spinal musculature (AKA Deconditioning Syndrome), improper movement patterns, poor posture/ergonomic habits, and chronic inflammation.
Because these problems tend to be complex, and the associated symptom pattern can be so diverse, a multi-specialty team approach has proven to be the best approach. In this model, not only are the specialists each doing what they are best at doing, they are working together as a team to provide the optimum benefit for the patient.
The primary goal initially is to return the individual to function as quickly as possible; this is done by decreasing the inflammation and increasing the range of motion. This is then followed up with patient education on spinal strengthening and posture, skill training, and ergonomic modification to best prevent a recurrence of the problem.
This approach has shown to have quicker recovery times, faster return to work, decreased re-injury rates, and less dependence on therapists and medication.