Neck pain is a common complaint. Each year, almost 15 percent of Americans report suffering from some degree of neck pain.
The fact that so many individuals suffer from neck pain is no surprise when you consider that the neck, also referred to as the cervical spine, supports the full weight of a person’s head-about 12 pounds-and allows the head to move in almost every direction.
The flexibility of the neck is one of the reasons why it is so susceptible to pain and injury. Much of this has to do with biomechanics. Accidents, long periods of sitting, repetitive moving and general wear and tear impact the neck and the seven small vertebrae contained within.
One of the most effective pain treatments for the neck is chiropractic care. Research shows that individuals with chronic neck pain reported significant improvement following chiropractic treatment.
It is likely that almost everyone will experience a stiff neck at some point in their life and, in such cases, that stiffness can be treated at home. However, there is a significant difference between the occasional stiff neck caused by sleeping in the wrong position or a long day of driving. So, when do you know if your neck pain warrants a visit to the chiropractor?
What follows some general guidelines for when your neck pain requires a trip to the chiropractor:
- The pain or stiffness in your neck continues for more than a few days.
- Severe pain occurs when you attempt to turn your head.
- You turn to over-the-counter pain medications to control your pain on a regular basis.
- Your pain has moved from your neck and causes numbness or tingling in your hands or wrists.
- Pain began within a few days following a car accident or stems from a specific movement or strain such as a fall or heavy lifting.
If you have decided that your neck pain warrants a visit to the chiropractor, here is what you can expect during your first visit. Your chiropractor will locate the source of your neck pain and ask a series of questions including, when did the pain start? How have you been managing the pain? Does the pain radiate to any other parts of your body? Is there anything that makes the pain worse?
Your chiropractor also will perform physical and neurological exams. During the physical exam your posture and range of motion will be observed. Neurological exams test things like reflexes, muscle strength and nerve changes. Tests such as x-rays, CAT scans, EMGs or MRIs may sometimes be necessary.
One of the most common treatments for neck pain are neck adjustments, or cervical manipulation. This procedure allows for precise adjustments to be made to the neck, in most cases by hand. Neck adjustments are an effective way to improve the mobility of the spine while restoring range of motion to the neck. These adjustments are very successful at improving a patient’s ability to move and tilt their head while reducing pain and stiffness.
Many people with chronic or severe neck pain mistakenly believe that they will spend their lives in agonizing pain, require painkillers or will have to undergo complicated surgeries. Thankfully, working with a chiropractor experienced in the treatment of neck pain will show them that this is seldom the case. Instead, they may be surprised to find that with the right chiropractic treatment plan they likely will be able to avoid all three of these scenarios.