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Neck Pain

Neck Pain Treatment: A Belmar Chiropractor’s perspective

Introduction

Here at Kinney Chiropractic, In Belmar, Nj,   Neck pain is one of the most common things we treat.  Your neck supports all the weight of your head which is anywhere from 10-12 lbs.  Women are 1.5 times more likely to have neck pain. The neck is where  most of our rotation motion occurs in the spine.

Often neck pain starts as an Acute injury.  Maybe you slept wrong or twisted wrong and pain goes away in a day or two.  But 30% of neck pain cases usually develop into something more Chronic, meaning it  lasts  longer.  Our lifestyles are big contributors to having neck pain.  If you have poor posture, or have awkward sleeping positions, you may develop neck pain.  But in the past 10 years, the most common cause of neck pain that we see is from electronic devices.  People look down at their phones, ipads, and laptops on average 5 hours per day.  We call this Tech Neck. We  have seen a growing  number of Kids coming into our office with neck pain, headaches and back pain from tech neck. 

Whenever a patient comes in with neck pain, we always want to assess the health of the discs.  A common cause of neck pain that we see is from Whiplash injuries or sports injuries.  When your head and neck suffer a whiplash injury, typically the spinal joints shift out of alignment and people lose the normal curve that there should be in the neck spine.  People can develop herniated discs in their necks from whiplash or sport injuries.  The discs are like little shock absorbers in between the spinal bones that protect bone from grinding on bone but also maintain the spaces or canal where the nerves exit out.  Imagine a disc to resemble a  jelly donut.  The outer rings are tougher material called the Annulus fibrosus, and the inside of the disc are more Gelatinous material called the Nucleus Pulposis.  If the rings of the  Annulus start to tear, the nucleus pulposis can start to squeeze out.  Initially it's called a bulge.  If  the rings of the annulus tear all the way through the thickness of disc, that's called a herniation. Chiropractic care is one of the best treatments for cervical disc problems.  If discs are not treated, over time the neck spine will lose normal alignment and motion, and the joints will become degenerative or arthritic. Permanent changes occur, loss of disc space and bone spurs will develop, which can put more stress on the nerves that exit out of the spine and create pain.  If the degenerative or herniated disc is where the nerves exit out to the arm, patients may have shooting shoulder, arm or hand pain, or numbness and tingling.  Because degenerative discs are permanent, getting alignment and motion back in the joints are the most important thing to do.  Chiropractic Adjustments help do that. 

We also want to check the neck spine for normal motion.   When the spinal joints move out of normal alignment, they can become locked or stuck, and lose normal motion.  This can put abnormal stress on the nerve roots that exit out from the spinal cord to the body parts.  This is what we call a Subluxation (abnormal motion, causing the joints to become locked or stuck, putting pressure on the nerves).  This is what chiropractors adjust, creating healthier motion and movement and alleviating any pressure on nerves.  This is how your body heals, naturally, without drugs, injections or surgery.  

With Tech Neck, or Whiplash injuries, Subluxations or even just poor biomechanics, and poor posture, we tend to lose that normal neck curve.  When your head and neck shifts forward over time,  not only does this cause degeneration but it puts a tremendous amount of stress on the muscles, ligaments and tendons of the neck.  This excess muscle stress gives rise to neck pain, shoulder blade pain, tension Headaches, and sometimes numbness and tingling into the hands and fingers.  This is why it's so important to make sure you have a good curve in your neck.  The way we do that at Kinney Chiropractic is with on site Digital X-rays.  Long standing loss of the curve only causes permanent disc and joint changes that are difficult to treat later in life. 

When someone comes into our office with neck pain, we must take a comprehensive history to see what past experiences, accidents or injuries the patient may have suffered.  Then we do a detailed exam and perform chiropractic, orthopedic and neurological tests, as well as specific chiropractic palpation, range of motion and posture assessment.  Finally, we take those detailed digital X-rays.  Often we utilize motion X-rays to be able to assess if there is good motion in the spine or not.  We review xrays measure curves and alignment and then review them in detail with ever patient before we begin any course of treatment.  We put together specific  treatment plans for every patient, which includes chiropractic care to address the spinal joints, discs and alignment and build in stretching and strengthening exercises to support the soft tissues. 

1. Comprehensive Consultation and Exam

At Kinney Chiropractic, When someone comes into our office with neck pain, we do a very thorough consultation and history.  Its very important to listen to the patient to determine what past experiences, accidents, injuries the patient may have had over the course of time which could give rise to the neck pain they are feeling.  For example, Many people will tell me they have never been in an accident, but later in the consult they tell me they have had a whiplash injury 10 years ago.  This information is important.  Our bodies are the result of all the past experiences we have had, so everything counts when taking a history.

Once we have completed the consult we do a very thorough examination, which includes chiropractic, orthopedic and neurologic tests, as well as specific spinal palpation, and posture assessment. If necessary we will take detailed digital Xrays, so we can see clearly where the problems are. 

2. Digital X-rays

At Kinney Chiropractic in order to determine the cause of a patient’s neck pain, we must do a comprehensive history and examination, which includes taking detailed Digital X-Rays.  We have a state of the art Digital Xray facility right on site, so we can have your spinal images right at our fingertips. The main reason we need to take neck X-rays is to assess whether or not there is a good curve in the neck spine.   Loss of the cervical curve is the first sign of spinal degeneration, and something that can be corrected if caught early enough. 

The next reason we take X-ays is to see if there is proper alignment of the neck and upper back spine.  We also must see if there is proper spacing for the discs.  Although X-rays do not visualize the discs specifically, we can tell by alignment and spacing if there seems to be issues with the discs.

At Kinney Chiropractic, we take motion X-rays.  This is a very specialized way to shoot X-rays.  We then do a very comprehensive analysis of the images to determine where problems are.  This way we can build your care plan around these findings and really get to the root  of what’s causing  your pain, and work to get it corrected.   In our office, its always better to know than to guess. 

3. Specific Chiropractic Care / Belmar, NJ

When patients come into the office with neck pain, whether its acute or chronic pain, one of the main problems we find are Subluxations.  Through our exam, palpation, ortho/neuro testing and xrays, we can see if there are subluxations.    Old accidents or injuries, repetitive stress, poor biomechanics or poor posture, can cause spinal joints to shift out of normal alignment.  When this happens they can become ‘locked’ or ‘stuck’ and not move well.  This can put abnormal stress on the joints and on the nerves exiting out from the spinal cord out to the body. This is what we call a Subluxation and that is what chiropractors adjust.  The adjustments restore normal alignment, normal motion and help alleviate pressure on the nerves, so your body can heal itself without drugs, injections or surgery.

4. Custom Therapeutic Exercise Plan

When you come into Kinney Chiropractic with any kind of neck pain, a thorough history, exam and xrays are taken so we can figure out what’s causing your neck pain and then we create a care plan to treat the problem.  Whether its spinal subluxations, arthritis, tech neck or disc injuries, there is almost always some sort of muscle weakness or imbalance.  Your head normally weighs between 8 and 10 lbs.  With repetitive stress, poor posture, old neck injuries, or prolonged looking down at your device,  you lose the normal curvature of the spine.  This extra forward head stress puts extreme stress on the muscles of the neck.  This might not only cause neck pain.  Often people have middle back pain, shoulder pain or even lower back pain from the loss of the neck curve. In cases like this, we must address the imbalances in the muscles.  Not only will we work to stretch and loosen tight muscles, we will also build in strengthening and curve corrective exercises so we can help get that curve back in your neck before its too late and you develop arthritis. 

One of the Most important treatments for Neck Disc injuries, Belmar, NJ

One of the most important exercises we do for disc injuries and neck pain is called cervical traction.  This is a very specific treatment, usually done in conjunction with an adjustment that helps to get a better curve in your neck and alleviate stress and abnormal pressure on the discs.  If you have lost the curve in your neck due to old whiplash or sports injuries, or just wear and tear of poor posture and poor biomechanics, this puts additional stress and strain on the discs which can cause disc herniations.  Cervical traction works to get a better curve in your neck.  Just by lying on the traction wedge, the weight of your head, and the shape of the wedge over time works to get a better curve in the neck, whereby taking excess stress off the discs. 

Common Causes of Neck Pain Belmar, NJ

1. Bulged Cervical Discs

Often people come into my office with neck pain and say they have been diagnosed with a bulging disc.  This is a very serious,  often painful condition in the neck, but is also very common and very treatable.  A disc is like Jelly Doughnut.  The outer rings, or Annulus Fibrosis are tougher and the inner core, or nucleus pulposis, is very jelly like material.  The outer rings of the Annulus can tear, through accidents or traumas, poor posture, poor alignment or poor biomechanics, and become dehydrated.   This allows the nucleus to push out through the rings of Annulus causing a bulge.  If the jelly pushes out or puts pressure on the nerves in the lower part of the neck,  patients can  present with not only neck pain, but pain, numbness or tingling  into the shoulders or down into the arms,  hands or fingers.  At Kinney Chiropractic we help treat many patients with bulging discs.

2. Herniated Cervical Discs

Patients often come into my office with severe pain or even a previous diagnosis of neck pain caused by herniated discs.  Herniated discs usually start as bulging disc, which I explain in detail in the Bulging Disc section above.  If the annulus of the disc tears, due to poor posture, accidents or injuries, or poor biomechanics, they become dehydrated and allow for the nucleus to push out.  If the annulus tears all the way through the thickness of the disc, and the nucleus pushes all the way out to the exterior portions of the disc, this is called a herniation.  This usually causes more intense neck pain, and often shoulder, arm and hand pain, weakness, numbness and tingling.  Some of that disc material may be reabsorbed by a cellular phenomenon called “phagocytosis”.  There are tiny immune cells called macrophages that will consume or break down disc particles over time to reduce the pressure in the nerve canal.  If  herniated discs are left untreated,  the joints will most likely develop degenerative disc disease and arthritis.  Some disc patients have extreme pain, and such loss of quality of life, that they must opt for surgery. That’s why its so important to treat disc problems early.

3. Degenerative Disc Disease

Whenever patients come into my office with neck pain, through a thorough exam and xrays, we can see clearly if you have Degenerative Disc Disease.  DDD usually occurs in my older population of patients, but if the patient has a history of prolonged physical work, poor posture at a computer, smoking or obesity, Its not surprising to see younger patients with degenerative disc disease.   Discs are like shock absorbers in between the spinal vertebrae.  When discs have prolonged abnormal stress, due to poor posture, old accidents or injuries, or just daily wear and tear, or smoking,  they can become dehydrated (bulged or herniated..refer to Bulge and Herniation sections)  and start to shrink or break down.  Over time, loss of those shock absorbers decreases the space in between the vertebrae and puts more stress on the bones.  When stressed,  spinal bones will lay down more bone.  This is what we call a Bone Spur.  These are 2 definitive signs of degeneration, loss of disc space and bone spurs.  When the discs shrink, the spacing for the nerves also becomes smaller, thereby putting more pressure on the nerves where they exit out to the body, which usually causes pain.  Degenerative disc disease is irreversible, but it can be slowed down with chiropractic care.  Getting proper motion, proper alignment and curvature back in the neck spine can cease the progression of the degenerative changes over time and help alleviate pain.

4. Tech Neck

Our lifestyles are big contributors to having neck pain.  In the past 10 years, the most common cause of neck pain that we see is from electronic devices.  People look down at their phones, ipads, and laptops on average 5 hours per day.  We call this Tech Neck. We  have seen a growing  number of Kids coming into our office with neck pain, headaches and back pain from tech neck.  Looking down at devices over a prolonged period of time causes forward head posture and increases the weight on the front of the neck.  If left untreated we lose the normal curve to the neck.  Normally, we should have a neck curve that is between 35-40 degrees.  We need that curve to keep proper stress on the joints and on the discs.  When we lose that curve, it puts much more stress on the joints, and on the discs, and also makes the muscles in the back of the head have to work harder to hold the head up.  This usually gives rise to tension headaches, neck pain and pain in the shoulders or shoulder blades.  Tech neck can also increase the chances of developing bulging or herniated discs.  Its so important to have a good curve in your neck.   

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is it okay to pop my own neck?

People tell me all the time that they crack their own neck.  This is probably the worst thing you can do and will almost always cause problems in the neck later in life.  Through the course of life, poor posture, sleeping wrong, old injuries, etc. the Joints in the spine can become locked up or stuck (subluxations).  When someone tries to crack or pop their neck, they usually pop a segment above or below the actual problem joint.  Sometimes people feel an immediate relief or gratification of the popping sound, but almost always it wasn;t the right joint.  Which is why they feel the need to do it over and over again.  Over time, this will cause inflammation and pain in the joints.  When the spine is corrected by a professional like a Chiropractor, the right joints are adjusted, pain and dysfunction goes away and the urge to crack your own neck usually disappears.

2. Do medical doctors recommend chiropractors for neck pain?  

More and more medical doctors are recommending Chiropractic for neck pain.  Medical care for neck pain is often just pharmaceutical, which may only help temporarily. Doctors realize how important it is to get motion in spinal joints and that’s exactly what chiropractic does.  Good medical doctors are realizing chiropractic is very helpful for neck pain and are referring to local chiropractors.

3. Are chiropractors covered by insurance for neck pain? 

At Kinney Chiropractic, we participate with most insurance companies so your neck pain will usually be covered by insurance.  Once we obtain your insurance information, we will call, as a benefit to you, to determine what kind of coverage you have and present it to you before you make any decisions about starting care.

4. How should I sleep with neck pain? 

I recommend patients sleep either on their side or their back if you have neck pain. The pillow should not be too flat or too thick.  The pillow should be pulled close to up into the curve of the neck with the chin slightly elevated in order to not have the chin pinned to the chest.  The Patient should never sleep on their stomach.