Neck pain is a very common symptom experienced by millions of people at some point in our lives and is the second most common complaint that we treat here at this clinic, followed by lower back pain complaints.
Most episodes of neck pain can be categorised into acute neck pain, usually lasting from a day to about three months duration, and chronic neck pain, which usually lasts greater than three months and may have been reoccurring for many years with periodic episodes of pain and other symptoms.
Acute neck pain.
Most episodes of acute neck pain are due to muscle strains or ligament and tendon sprains. (1) These type of injuries are often caused by sudden movements of the cervical spine (neck), such as whiplash resulting from a car accident, but also from adopting prolonged sedentary positions, such as sitting in front of a computer screen, driving or sleeping with the head and neck in an awkward or incorrectly supported position.
Chronic neck pain.
There are many conditions that can cause chronic neck pain. However, the two most common causes are from neck facet joint problems and secondly from problems with the intervertebral discs. (2)
According to published estimates, some 20% of the population suffers from chronic neck pain caused by a variety of structural dysfunctions in the neck, resulting in impaired quality of life and lost work time. (3)
Chronic neck pain can also lead to serious comorbidities like depression and individuals with chronic neck pain frequently experience distress. (4)
Facet joint problems.
Facet joint problems usually develop as a result of aberrant or excessive mechanical forces placed through the joint, during activity and/or prolonged pressure on the joint, causing it to sprain and/or develop arthritis and resulting in localised and/or referred pain a distance away from the neck injury, such as the shoulder blade, upper back and even pain into the arm.
Chronic facet joint symptoms are often characterised by localised persistent aching pain with sometimes bouts of local sharp pain or pinching, particularly with certain movements or positioning of the neck. It also commonly causes muscle tightness, soreness with palpation over particular muscles in the neck and to a lesser extent it can refer pain into the shoulder blade and the arm.
Intervertebral disc problems.
Intervertebral disc problems usually develop gradually over many months to years and hence are characterised by various grades of severity. Disc problems are commonly the result of prolonged periods of lack of proper or regular movement of the cervical spine, such as continuous long hours and years of sitting in front of computer or driving a motor vehicle, that then leads to poor nutrition and hydration of the disc, resulting in its loss of integrity, becoming brittle and very susceptible to tears with relatively normal stressors or low forces placed on the neck.
Intervertebral disc symptoms are often characterised by sharp pain in the neck, which can shoot down the arm and hand, cause pins and needles, numbness and in more severe cases, also weakness in the arms and hands.
How we treat neck pain problems?
We understand that the majority of these conditions are the result of the following events or circumstances; injury due to some particular sudden or abrupt movement of the neck, an overload of muscular tension on the neck or on the other end of the spectrum, from a lack of adequate and proper cervical joint movement over prolonged periods of time.
Hence, our focus is to restore the correct or proper movement of the mechanical components (such as those of the facet joints and discs) of the cervical spine, and to stimulate the natural healing processes of the injured tissues (such as, ligaments, tendons, muscles, fascia, cartilage and nerves) for full recovery and optimal function.
It’s also well understood that in most cases, by the time someone is experiencing neck pain, particularly chronic neck pain, that more than one type of tissue or area of the neck is now compromised and for this reason our approach is to integrate various chiropractic techniques with soft tissue massage and stretches to target the various injured tissues and remove the biomechanical stressors on the neck and spine.
A study from the prestigious medical journal The Annals of Internal Medicine reports that chiropractic is more effective for neck pain than medication5. In the study, 272 patients with acute or subacute neck pain were given one of three treatments: medication, exercise with the advice of a health practitioner, or chiropractic care. After 12 weeks of treatment, patients in the chiropractic and exercise groups experienced the most pain reduction. When compared to the medication group, both exercise and chiropractic had more than doubled the likelihood that participants experienced complete relief of their pain. For chiropractic patients, these benefits lasted for at least a year, demonstrating that chiropractic can provide long-term relief. The strong success of chiropractic and exercise is likely due to the fact that both treatments address the cause of neck pain, rather than just masking the symptoms. Whether your neck pain is a result of an injury or sitting at a desk for long hours, chiropractic care can restore your normal health free of pain, without the adverse effects of drugs.