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Woman with neck pain.

Our neck, also called the cervical spine, begins at the base of the skull and contains seven small vertebrae. Incredibly, the cervical spine supports the full weight of your head, which is on average about 12 pounds. While the cervical spine can move your head in nearly every direction, this flexibility makes the neck very susceptible to pain and injury.

The neck’s susceptibility to injury is due in part to biomechanics. Activities and events that affect cervical biomechanics include extended sitting, repetitive movement, accidents, falls and blows to the body or head, normal aging, and everyday wear and tear. Neck pain can be very bothersome, and it can have a variety of causes.

When to See a Chiropractor for Neck Pain

A stiff neck is always cause for concern, though often, pain and discomfort subsides in a few days depending on the root cause of the issue.

If regular neck pain is a part of your life, or if you’re experiencing any of the following, we’d love to see you in the practice to determine if we can help!

  1. If neck pain is hanging around for more than a few days, it’s a good idea to book an appointment with us. When an accident is to blame, it’s always important to get evaluated by a medical professional to rule out anything serious.
  2. When you’re waking up with neck pain that seems to get better by the end of the day, it could be a sign of improper sleep posture or even teeth grinding. Nighttime clenching of the jaw can work its way into your neck and shoulders.
  3. Do you find yourself reaching for frequent over-the-counter pain medication to manage neck pain? If so, we’ll help identify the root cause of the issue so that you can resolve it at its source to break the cycle of medication reliance.
  4. Look to the left, and then to the right. Do you feel a sharp pain when making those movements? If so, get evaluated.
  5. Have you noticed your neck pain spread to other parts of your body? For example, sometimes pain can start in the neck, and then slowly turn into tingling in other parts of the body, like your arms or fingers.
  6. When daily tasks start becoming an issue due to the pain you’re experiencing, it can cause new emotional and physical stress. Getting help now before the issue becomes more serious is always a good idea.

Here are some of the most typical causes of neck pain:

  • Injury and accidents: A sudden forced movement of the head or neck in any direction and the resulting “rebound” in the opposite direction is known as whiplash. The sudden “whipping” motion injures the surrounding and supporting tissues of the neck and head. Muscles react by tightening and contracting, creating muscle fatigue, which can result in pain and stiffness. Severe whiplash can also be associated with injury to the intervertebral joints, discs, ligaments, muscles, and nerve roots. Car accidents are the most common cause of whiplash.
  • Growing older: Degenerative disorders such as osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis, and degenerative disc disease directly affect the spine.
  • Osteoarthritis, a common joint disorder, causes progressive deterioration of cartilage. The body reacts by forming bone spurs that affect joint motion.
  • Spinal stenosis causes the small nerve passageways in the vertebrae to narrow, compressing and trapping nerve roots. Stenosis may cause neck, shoulder, and arm pain, as well as numbness, when these nerves are unable to function normally.
  • Degenerative disc disease can cause reduction in the elasticity and height of intervertebral discs. Over time, a disc may bulge or herniate, causing tingling, numbness and pain that runs into the arm.
  • Daily life: Poor posture, obesity and weak abdominal muscles often disrupt spinal balance, causing the neck to bend forward to compensate. Stress and emotional tension can cause muscles to tighten and contract, resulting in pain and stiffness. Postural stress can contribute to chronic neck pain with symptoms extending into the upper back and the arms.

Chiropractic Care of Neck Pain

During your visit, your doctor of chiropractic will perform exams to locate the source of your pain and will ask you questions about your current symptoms and remedies you may have already tried. For example:

  • When did the pain start?
  • What have you done for your neck pain?
  • Does the pain radiate or travel to other parts of your body?
  • Does anything reduce the pain or make it worse?

Your doctor of chiropractic will also do physical and neurological exams. In the physical exam, your doctor will observe your posture, range of motion, and physical condition, noting movement that causes pain. Your doctor will feel your spine, note its curvature and alignment, and feel for muscle spasm. A check of your shoulder area may also be performed. During the neurological exam, your doctor will test your reflexes, muscle strength, other nerve changes, and pain spread.

In some instances, your chiropractor might order tests to help diagnose your condition. An x-ray can show narrowed disc space, fractures, bone spurs, or arthritis. A computerized axial tomography scan (a CT or CAT scan) or a magnetic resonance imaging test (an MRI) can show bulging discs and herniation. If nerve damage is suspected, your doctor may order a special test called electromyography (an EMG) to measure how quickly your nerves respond.

Doctors of chiropractic are conservative care doctors; their scope of practice does not include the use of drugs or surgery. If your chiropractor diagnoses a condition outside of this conservative scope, such as a neck fracture or an indication of an organic disease, they will refer you to the appropriate medical physician or specialist. They may also ask for permission to inform your family physician of the care you are receiving to ensure that your chiropractic care and medical care are properly coordinated.

Whether you’re dealing with neck pain or another chronic issue, we’re here for you. Contact us today to book a visit. (425) 614-0680

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