Are you suffering with neck pain and wondering what can be done about it? Have you tried chiropractic or physical therapy with little benefit? Are you afraid drugs or surgery are your only options?
I just had a patient leave my office. It’s be a few months since I had seen her. Prior to starting to see me, she’d see a chiropractor monthly for an adjustment, otherwise her low back would really start to bother her and prevent her from doing things she needed to get done around her house. When she first came to me, we addressed her low back. In 2-3 visits, I fixed it. Not like ‘oh, it’s 75% better and as long as I don’t do x, y, and z, I’m fine.’ Fixed it, as in, 100% gone. Buh-bye. She even does the stuff around the house she was afraid to do before lest her back go out.
How did I do this? I was able to fix her low back because I also looked at the muscles around the spine- the ones that support it and attach to it- and instead of adjusting the spine (which she had already experienced plenty before walking into my office) I addressed the muscle imbalance. Problem solved and she no longer needs a monthly visit just to keep it at bay.
After not seeing her for a couple of months, she came back, this time with neck pain. Again, I addressed the muscles around and attached to the neck and gave her an exercise to do to support that. That seemed to take care of the issue because she came back in today, after not seeing her most of this winter, and told me,
That exercise you gave me fixed my neck! I haven’t had any neck pain since then!
The exercise I gave her was nothing extraordinary or profound. It was just a simple chin retraction exercise. But it lengthen the muscles in the back of her neck so that her head could rest balanced over the rest of her spine, instead of coming forward of her torso. This was causing an increased load to the muscles like her trapezius and levator scapulae (in the back, these go from the shoulder blade to the top of the neck and help ‘hold’ the neck up). Your head weighs about 12 pounds as it is, and every inch it moves forward, it gets 10 pounds heavier.
Unfortunately, most of us do this all day long. We sit starring at screens, at smartphones and now tablets, with our heads subtly coming forward so we can see better. Then we go to bed at night, stick a pillow under our heads to jack our head & neck in the air and replicate this posture again for the next 6-8 hours. Over time, the muscles in the neck become adapted to this position and there they stay, increasing the loads on your spine and neck musculature, leading to tight shoulders, knotted neck muscles, loss of joint space in the cervical spine and eventually arthritis, even things like stenosis in the neck. In short, this posture over long periods of leads to neck pain.
Why does this happen? Does it happen because there is a ‘joint out of place’ in the neck or does it happen because the way we use our bodies on a daily basis is out of context with the way it was designed to moved?
I work from the premise that it is the later. Just like fast food isn’t truly nourishing food that will allow us to realize our full health potential, unnatural positions & postures (particularly when engaged in for long periods of time), change our underlying movement patterns. If these patterns are out of context with the normal architecture of our musculoskeletal system… well the end result at some point will be pain and degeneration. Neck pain, back pain, knee pain- it doesn’t matter where the pain is because in the end, unless there was a precipitating trauma, it’s just a symptom of dysfunctional movement patterns.
The empowering part of this point of view is that these problems can be fixed! Granted, it may take time. If you spent years in a certain position or using your muscles a certain way, it will take some time to undo that, but it is possible. And it’s more possible the younger you are, before arthritis starts to change the underlying shape of the bones. However, bones are constantly remodeling themselves in response to the forces placed on them, so there’s always the opportunity to change those forces and then change their shape. You are a product of how you move. You change the product by changing how you move!
By changing the way my patient’s neck was functioning, we eliminated her neck pain. She did the daily work of stretching and doing the exercise. My part was simply to spot the dysfunctional movement and give the appropriate correction. I never needed to ‘adjust’ her neck.
If you’re struggling with neck pain and other things you’ve tried aren’t working, feel free to give my office a cal at 845-687-6387. We can chat about how I may be able to help you the same way I helped my patient today.