At one time or another, neck pain has gotten the best of almost everyone. In many cases, neck pain can be attributed to a certain event like a sports injury, car accident, or chalked up to something simple like sleeping in a funny position. For some people, their neck pain becomes a chronic and nagging part of their everyday life that they’re forced to cope with.
Neck pain can occur for many reasons, but most commonly arises as a result of:
- Wear and tear from repetitive motion
- Whiplash injury
- Contact sports
Where is my Neck Pain Originating From?
Looking at the neck, it’s actually a remarkable feat of engineering – you’ve got bones, muscles, ligaments, tendons, nerves, blood, and lymph vessels all working together to make sure your body can feel and function at its best. The neck also bears the weight of the head, which weighs an average of 12-13 pounds in an adult. Because of its complexity, the neck can also be vulnerable to pain and injury. When your neck hurts, it can be coming from any of the above-mentioned structures, but here are five of the most likely culprits:
- Muscle pain – the muscles in your neck and shoulders can become tense, knotted, or spasm causing pain and discomfort. When your neck muscles are affected, it can cause restrictions in range of motion such as when you wake up with a stiff neck and are unable to look to one side. Pain in the musculature of the neck can happen as a result of injury, overexertion, and stress (either physical or emotional). Sometimes, trigger points in the muscles of the neck can send pain into the shoulder and down the arms.
- Cervicogenic headache – cervicogenic refers to headaches that originate in the neck. Neck-related headaches are often felt at the back of the head, base of the skull, and along the upper part of the neck. Cervicogenic headaches are typically dull in nature (as opposed to sharp or throbbing) and the neck might feel stiff or sensitive to the touch. Neck movements tend to make this type of headache worse.
- Nerve pain – from between each vertebra in the neck (the cervical spine) emerges a nerve root that branches off of the spinal cord. These nerve roots can become irritated or pinched for several reasons including inflammation, muscle spasm, degeneration, arthritis, or spinal misalignment. When the nerve roots are compromised, the pain can range from a dull numbness to a sharp shooting pain that is fleeting. Depending on the level of involvement (higher up or lower down in the neck), it is possible for the pain to shoot down the arm and into the hand.
- Facet joint pain – the facet joints form the articular surfaces in between each vertebra. Facet joints can become inflamed or degenerated and cause pain that can be sharp or aching. This type of pain is usually exacerbated when you move your neck or turn your head to the involved side and can send pain into the shoulders or upper back.
- Referred pain – referred pain is pain that presents itself in one place even though the problem is located elsewhere. For example, when it comes to neck pain, it is possible that it is referred pain from a problem with the esophagus if the neck pain presents itself following a meal. Similarly, pain in the shoulder or even carpal tunnel syndrome can be triggered by problems originating in the neck.
Upper Cervical Chiropractic Care – The Comprehensive Neck Pain Solution
Upper cervical chiropractic care focuses on the uppermost vertebra in the neck – the atlas. The atlas is unique for several reasons:
- It is shaped unlike any other vertebra in the spine
- It lacks a disc above and below it
- It doesn’t have facet joints like the rest of the vertebrae in the neck
- It bears the weight of the head
- It provides protection for the brainstem, a crucial component of the body’s central nervous system
- It is the most freely movable segment in the entire spine
Some of these reasons make the atlas especially vulnerable to misaligning when you sustain some kind of accident or injury. When the atlas shifts out of its normal alignment, it forces the weight of the head to be balanced off a neutral center of gravity. The rest of the neck has to compensate for this, placing a great deal of stress and strain on the soft tissues of the neck and can also start to irritate joints and nerves.
At Rickards Chiropractic, we look at each case of neck pain individually – this is one of the advantages of upper cervical chiropractic care. Using a thorough analysis, a precise adjustment is tailored for every patient we see in our practice. Because of the customized nature of our care, atlas adjustments are very gentle and are designed to hold in place for as long as possible. When atlas alignment is restored, the rest of the neck no longer has to compensate and can heal as well. This is what gives our patients the lasting results that they’re looking for. To learn more about how upper cervical chiropractic care can help you get past chronic neck pain, call us at 760-745-1511 or fill out the contact form on our website at rickardschiropractic.com to schedule your obligation-free consultation.