Neck pain is one of the most frustrating conditions a person can encounter. Even the smallest pain can leave an individual immobile and unable to perform simple daily tasks. Unfortunately, neck pain is very common, especially in people over 50. The reason why our necks are so susceptible to pain is because they are put through himmense stress each day. Over time, this stress builds up until a small traumatic event like a twist of the neck causes pain.
The neck, or cervical spine, is made up of seven small vertebrae which, along with the neck muscles and ligaments, support the weight of the head. Neck pain is most often caused by a strain in these muscles and ligaments. Since they are put through such high levels of stress each day, small neck pains are not uncommon and should not be stressed over. Although annoying, minor neck pain usually subsides after a day or two as the strained muscles relax and heal themselves. However, if the neck pain does not go away and continues to worsen over time it could be a sign of a more serious condition, such as damage to the spine or spinal discs. Referred to as chronic neck pain, this condition can be caused by a number of ailments and should be treated promptly before further damage is done to the spine or the pain worsens.
Causes of Chronic Neck Pain
Chronic neck pain can be caused by a number of conditions and can be a sign of a more serious injury. Common injuries that lead to chronic neck pain include facet joint pain, disc injury, muscle strains, and herniated discs. These ailments may arise naturally over time through normal wear and tear of the body, or through a traumatic event like a car wreck or sports injury. Other factors that may lead to chronic neck pain include aging and excess stress through your daily routine. As we grow older, our bodies naturally begin to break down. This may lead to conditions like osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis, and degenerative disc disease that can all contribute to chronic neck pain. Poor posture, obesity and weak abdominal muscles can also lead to chronic neck pain. In these cases, improving posture and implementing an exercise routine can alleviate chronic neck pain and prevent injury in the future.
Symptoms of Chronic Neck Pain
The most basic symptom of chronic neck pain is a shooting pain in the neck that lasts for more than a couple days. This pain may show itself as acute or dull, or a combination of the two. Since the neck is a central part of our body’s movement, pain may also be felt throughout the body even if it is caused by an injury in the neck alone. This may include pain that radiates down the arms, shoulders and back. Chronic neck pain can also fluctuate from severe to non-existent over the period of months. This is typically a result of degenerative disc disease and should be treated promptly.
Treatment for Chronic Neck Pain
Most all chronic neck pain can be treated naturally through chiropractic care without the need for invasive surgery or prescription pain medication. A chiropractor will focus on realigning the spine to allow the body to naturally heal itself. Most chronic neck pain stems from imbalances and misalignment of the spine and spinal discs. By relieving pressure placed on the overexerted neck, fluid that has been expelled from the spinal discs is reintroduced into the system allowing it to heal.
The most common treatment option a chiropractor will use is neck adjustments. Neck adjustments are precise procedures applied to the neck joints by hand. Through a controlled force, a chiropractor will realign the neck joints to improve mobility of the spine and increase the neck’s range of motion. This will in turn reduce pain as the neck will be more free to move. Along with neck adjustments, a chiropractor will combine various treatments to hasten the healing process. These generally include heat or ice therapy, massage, or rehabilitative exercises. Each treatment is developed for the patient’s unique injuries and medical needs in order to prevent further injury and improve the healing process.
A chiropractor will also work with each patient to develop an exercise program for their treatment. Paired with chiropractic care, a well-designed exercise program can help relieve the stress put on the neck and back by strengthening the supporting muscles. A daily exercise plan will also increase the blood flow and respiratory function of the patient which leaves the body better fit to heal itself and prevent injury. In fact, studies show that chiropractic care paired with exercise can work better at healing the body than pain medication.
If you suffer from neck pain that lasts for more than a couple of days, you may be showing signs of chronic neck pain. Left untreated, chronic neck pain can lead to more serious injuries and can cause other symptoms to arise like headaches and pain throughout the body. In order to avoid surgery and a reliance on prescription pain medications, it is recommended to consult a chiropractor in order to treat the root cause of the pain. Through spinal adjustments, a chiropractor will help realign the spinal system allowing for a natural healing process and increase in range of motion in the neck.
About the Author:
Dr. Marc Browner is the Founder of iChiropractic and Wellness in Naples, Florida. A graduate of the University of Florida in 1991, he earned his Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Life Chiropractic in 1995. In private practice since 1998, Dr. Browner is a member of the Florida Chiropractic Society, the Florida Chiropractic Association, and he attends continuing education seminars, classes, and workshops to remain abreast of the most current treatment methods and technological advances in the field. Visit his website at ichiropractic.net.