The neck is a complicated structure, and parts of how it is designed can be the culprit when it comes to neck pain. The cervical spine has the unique job of giving your head both the support and mobility it needs. The average weight of the head of an adult is approximately 11-12 pounds, and it is balanced on top of a vertebra that weighs mere ounces!
There are seven vertebrae that make up the cervical spine. At the top, the atlas vertebra forms a junction with the skull, and at the bottom of the neck at C7, the spinal column transitions into the thoracic region. Keeping the neck together are a series of ligaments, joints, and discs that give stability and enable movement. Nerve roots that branch off of the spinal cord housed within the vertebrae exit through openings at the left and right side of the spine.
Neck pain can take on many characteristics. It can feel:
- Sharp or stabbing in an isolated spot
- A dull ache across a broad area
- Sore or tender
- Stiff, making turning the head difficult and uncomfortable
- Radiating, causing pain up into the head or down into the shoulder, arm, or hand
Since neck pain is such a common, universal experience, we’ll discuss some of the most common conditions that come along with neck pain. Finally, we’ll talk about a branch of chiropractic care that is tailored towards giving neck pain sufferers the natural, lasting relief that they’ve been looking for.
Common Conditions Related to Neck Pain
- Headache or migraine – those who are prone to neck pain might also find themselves experiencing more frequent headaches or migraines. Similarly, migraine and headache sufferers can sometimes feel their neck start to hurt or tense up before the headache kicks in. It’s no surprise that these conditions are connected. If the area where the head and neck meet, where the atlas (C1) vertebra is situated, is affected then normal blood and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) flow between the head and neck can be compromised.
- Osteoarthritis – the cartilage in the many joints that connect the vertebrae in your cervical spine can degenerate due to abnormal wear and tear over time. Rather than having the joints move smoothly over the cartilage surface, you might experience a grinding sensation along with neck pain. Osteoarthritis can also cause inflammation and bone spur formation, both of which can irritate nerves and cause referred pain, numbness, and tingling down the neck through the shoulder, arm, and into the hand.
- Disc degeneration – degenerative disc disease in the cervical spine can irritate nerves and lead to arthritic changes in the neck. If the discs are not kept healthy, they will start to become dehydrated. This can happen due to an injury, smoking, abnormal biomechanics due to a vertebral misalignment (subluxation), or repetitive use wear and tear.
- Whiplash – in a whiplash injury, the head and neck are forced forwards and backwards suddenly. The muscles and ligaments of the spine can be damaged, torn, or even rupture as a result of a whiplash injury. Although we usually think of whiplash when we think of a car accident, particularly getting rear-ended, whiplash injury can also happen from a slip and fall, sports injury, or other circumstance that causes the head to accelerate and decelerate without warning.
- Disc herniation – a disc herniation happens when the inner jelly-like material of the disc (the nucleus pulposis) pushes out through the outer fibrous rings of the disc. A disc herniation can be extraordinarily painful as it can irritate the nerve roots in the neck or the spinal cord itself.
Upper Cervical Chiropractic for Neck Pain
It certainly seems logical to see a chiropractor if you’ve been suffering from neck pain. But did you know that there are chiropractors who have additional training and focus exclusively on the alignment of the uppermost vertebrae in the neck? Upper cervical chiropractors have an intimate understanding of how the neck functions and how the alignment of the atlas, the top bone in the spine, can influence how the rest of the neck feels. Some of the benefits of seeing an upper cervical specific chiropractor include:
- Precise adjustments – upper cervical adjustments do not require a great deal of force due to the fact that they are so precise. Based on specific measurements taken from x-rays unique to this area of the spine, each upper cervical correction is built for that individual patient. This equates to a gentle, effective adjustment without the need for forceful popping or twisting of the neck.
- Lasting results – one of the most important goals of upper cervical chiropractic care is to provide adjustments that hold in place for longer and longer as your spine heals and becomes stronger. At each visit, your atlas correction will be checked to see if it is holding in place. The worst thing we can do is adjust a vertebra that is already in its correct position. You may need to be adjusted more frequently when first starting out under care, but as things heal, visits can be spaced further apart.
There is no need to suffer endlessly with neck pain that doesn’t seem to want to go away on its own. Most upper cervical chiropractors offer a complimentary, obligation-free consultation to learn more about this revolutionary approach to care. To locate a practitioner in your area and to get started on the road to relief, click on the search function on our website.
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