A stiff and painful neck is a common problem. Some people acquire neck pain from a sudden injury such as a fall, blow to the head, or auto accident. For others, the pain comes on slowly and builds gradually. Then again, another group may just awaken one day with sudden neck pain and stiffness.
People who have immediate neck pain from an accident obviously know its source. Those with neck pain which develops slowly and builds gradually may be able to trace its origin to their daily work activities or perhaps to an abnormal sleeping posture. For instance, work duties that involve sitting at a desk or typing station with one's neck bent forward and down create continual daily stress on the neck. Likewise, people who sleep on their stomachs or have the wrong type of pillow may also create a problem in the neck over a period of time. Those who suddenly awake one morning with pain may have had previous small single or multiple injuries to the neck which, left untreated, eventually 'caught up' with the person.
In most cases, the pain and discomfort are due to problems arising at the joints of the spinal bones in the neck. Doctors refer to the bones of the neck as the 'cervical spine.'
What actually occurs is that each bone in the neck forms a joint with the bones both above and below. These joints are called facet joints. The facet joints should move freely to allow normal motion of our necks. However, at times, they can become misaligned and/or move improperly. When this happens, the facet joints commonly irritate or pinch small pain-sensitive nerves in the neck, shoulder, and upper back area.
A study performed at Princess Alexandria Hospital and published in Spine research journal confirmed the role of the neck facet joints. Researchers found that for people suffering from pain in the neck, back of the shoulder, and headaches, 71% proved to have abnormalities involving the facet joints.
Chiropractors are trained to find abnormalities associated with the facet joints of the neck. Chiropractors then can manipulate or adjust these bones and joints back into position so they are aligned and move properly.
Adjustments or manipulations usually involve a quick but gentle movement by the chiropractor's hands to reposition the bones and joints of the neck. Additionally, the Chiropractor may use physical therapy such as ice, heat and electrical muscle stimulation to aid and quicken healing to the damaged area.
In one research study, 364 patients with neck pain had manipulation treatment. Complete relief of pain and symptoms was obtained in 90% of the patients. This study shows chiropractic care is particularly indicated for neck pain!
To determine if chiropractic care is warranted in the treatment of neck pain, a detailed history of the problem must first be taken. Next, a physical examination involving chiropractic, orthopedic, and neurological testing is performed. X-rays may also need to be taken to aid in the diagnosis. The information gained will then tell if the patient is suitable for chiropractic care of neck pain.
Anyone with neck pain or discomfort should seek an immediate chiropractic examination not only to eliminate the pain but also to prevent possible long-term arthritic changes from developing.
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