Chiropractic CE

Chiropractic for Neck Pain

            About 24% of all visits to a chiropractor is for neck pain. Neck pain also ranks only 2nd to back pain as the most common reason that patients visit chiropractic office. It is a very common problem especially with many people now sitting for more hours of the day working from home, and the technology-heavy world we all now find ourselves in. Treating the cervical spine is something we as chiropractic providers are all too familiar with, and we should be well-versed in all of the potential neck issues that patients may present with.

Neck Pain

            It is pretty obvious to us as chiropractors why neck pain is the 2nd most common condition people come to our office with. The neck is the link between the head and the torso creating motion in the head. There are seven vertebrae that make up the neck, C1 – C7, all supported by muscles and ligaments. When those muscles, ligaments, and joints become inflamed is when neck pain most often occurs.

Types of neck pain:

  • Chronic pain – if the pain is persisting in the neck for longer than 3 months, then it would be considered chronic.

  • Acute pain – pain that can often improve on its own through addressing the cause of the neck pain, and at-home self-care. If it is not improved within a few weeks, it is at that point that those with this neck pain should seek non-drug therapies, such as chiropractic.

Common symptoms of neck pain:

  • Soreness or tenderness

  • Sharp, stabbing, or radiating pain

  • Stiff neck inhibiting range of motion

  • Pain in the upper back and shoulders

  • Fatigue

  • Anxiety & depression

  • Neck sensitivity

  • Muscle spasms

Many times, neck pain can be caused by simple things such as sleeping strangely, falling, injuries from sports, whiplash, and poor posture. Alternately, in some rare cases, neck pain can be caused by infections, cancer, tumors, and growth abnormalities.

Other more serious causes of neck pain:

  • Stress

  • Vertebral Subluxation

  • Cervical Herniated Disc

  • Cervical Degenerative Disc Disease

However, the most common cause of neck pain in patients is repetitive movements of the neck, common in the lifestyle of the average person in the United States today.

Chiropractic Neck Pain Treatment

            As a chiropractor evaluating neck pain in a patient, we need to not only evaluate the neck, but also the spine as a whole. Neck pain can also cause other areas of the spine such as the thoracic and lumbar spine to be afflicted as well.

Some techniques that can be used for neck pain:

  • Cervical Manual Traction

  • Cervical Mobilization

  • Cervical Drop Techniques

Although it is a preference depending on how you practice, a gentle chiropractic technique is often recommended when it comes to treating patients with neck pain.

Reasons to use gentle chiropractic techniques on neck pain patients:

  • Contraindications – some patients who have either acute or chronic neck pain might not be able to endure a traditional chiropractic technique.

  • Patient preference – some patients, whether it’s from past experiences or from sensitivity, don’t feel comfortable with the high-velocity thrust manipulation. Some patients may prefer a chiropractic technique that does not include joint popping or twisting of the neck.

Any of this is also dependent on the patient, their medical history, and how their neck pain presents. Chiropractic treatments of the neck help to reduce misalignments and joint restrictions in order to decrease inflammation, and increase function of the neck joint and the nervous system. Strengthening joint range of motion and improving the nervous system function will allow for the patient’s body to manage neck pain.

Most common cervical conditions chiropractors treat:

  • Cervical sprains

  • Degenerative joint syndrome of the neck

  • Facet joint pain

  • Cervical intervertebral disc injuries (those that don’t require surgery)

  • Whiplash

The course of treatment in a neck pain patient is at your discretion as a provider, but it is vital that we perform a full comprehensive exam including proper questions as well as both physical and neurological exams.

Chiropractic Neck Pain Treatment Protocol

            Obviously, as professionals, we know what is required as far as an exam with a new patient, but it is never a bad thing to revisit the basics of neck pain treatment protocol. You will want to ask specific questions to determine the underlying cause.

Chiropractic neck pain treatment example questions:

  • What have you done previously for your neck pain?

  • When did the pain start?

  • Does anything reduce or alternatively increase the pain?

  • Does the neck pain radiate to other parts of the body?

After the physical and neurological exam, some patients may require additional tests to be ordered in order to best diagnose their condition. These tests can include an x-ray, CT scan, MRI, to show bulging discs and herniations, and an EMG to determine how quickly the patient’s nerves respond. After a neck pain adjustment, patients will typically notice an increase in their ability to turn and/or tilt the head, and a decrease in pain, stiffness, and soreness. After treatment, sending patients home with rehabilitative exercises to uphold their results from chiropractic treatment can only optimize their results.

Self-therapy techniques patients can do at home:

  • Stretching:

    • Stretch #1 – while sitting or standing with a relaxed posture and shoulders down, have the patient bring the left ear to the left shoulder. Then repeat on the opposite side, 3 repetitions per side, 10 seconds each repetition. This stretch, if done on the left side should be felt on the right, and vice versa.

    • Stretch #2 – while sitting or standing with a relaxed posture and shoulders down, have the patient tilt their head as far forward as possible, then have them line up their right eye with the outside of the left knee. They can use their left hand on the head to create a deeper stretch. This stretch would be felt in the upper back on the right side. The stretch should be repeated on the opposite side, 3 repetitions per side, 10 seconds each repetition.

  • Strengthen:

    • Chin Tucks – this exercise work to strengthen the neck muscles that are deeper, and can be performed laying down or standing. If the patient decides to stand, just be sure they are in, or know how to stay in a proper neutral posture. Then, have the patient pull the chin back, and if laying down, press the back of the head gently into the pillow. The patients should do 3 repetitions, and hold for 10 seconds each.

Regardless of the techniques you find yourself using for neck pain patients, working on conjunction with other health care providers to help the patient to achieve optimal results can be a great benefit.

Chiropractic & Neck Pain

            Ultimately, the most important thing when treating a patient for neck pain is to make sure the patient keeps moving without staying in one position for too long. If their average day requires prolonged sitting, be sure they are taking walking breaks. Vice versa if their day involves prolonged standing. In addition, it’s important to be aware that neck pain can also be an indication of something more serious going on within the patient’s body. If the patient has neck pain combined with shooting pain in the shoulder or arm, severe headache, trouble speaking, swallowing, or walking, numbness or loss of strength in the hands or arms, and blurred vision or loss of balance, be sure they seek immediate attention.