Most of us are affected by neck and shoulder pain at least a few times in our lives. If you consider the job of the neck, it's easy to see why this area of the spine is so easily injured or strained. The neck or cervical spine region has the job of holding up our heads, which on average have a weight of around eight pounds. The range of motion of the neck is pretty unique as well. Consider all the ways the neck can move and see if you can find another area of your body that has this capability.
The neck is also an intricate headquarter of a very important potion of the spinal cord and the nerves that extend from the spinal cord giving life to our bodies (breathing, heart rate). The jugular vein and carotid arteries pass through the neck region and are two of the largest blood vessels in the body. Then of course, we have vertebrae, disks, and a number of tendons, ligaments, and muscles.
This is a very important region and one that due to its range of motion and intricacy can have quite a bot go wrong! Some common problems that occur in the cervical spine region are listed below.
We often feel neck pain when we've had a tense, hectic, of stressful day. Stress causes our muscles to tense and we often feel this most in the back of the neck. The way we carry ourselves when we're stressed usually exacerbates the problem. We tend to crunch this area as we hunch over and focus on the problem at hard, or simply feel blue. Posture is another major problem for the neck. When we do not have proper posture, it's like adding weight to your head and increasing the strain on the neck. So many things play a role in posture! Desk ergonomics, core strength, and gait abnormalities all influence posture, which in turn influences the health of your neck.
Whiplash occurs whenever the neck is forcibly moved beyond it's natural range of motion. This is one of the most common auto accident injuries, but it can also occur as a result of hitting your head hard enough to jar your neck, or holding your neck past its normal range of motion for a sustained period of time (i.e. resting that tiny cell phone between your ear and your shoulder)!
Whiplash injuries need immediate care. If left alone to heal, there's a high chance of future degenerative problems as well as whiplash syndrome. Whiplash syndrome includes symptoms such as dizziness, vertigo, radiating pain to the shoulders, and cervicogenic headaches.
Acute injuries, repetitive strain injury, and natural aging of the body can all lead to cervical disc degeneration. The discs in between the vertebrae and fluid-filled cartilage pads that are meant to cushion the cervical spine and absorb shock and pressure. Degeneration of the discs can lead to the vertebrae rubbing against each other. As this happens, pain as well as limited range of motion becomes noticeable. The degenerative process is continuous unless it is slowed or stopped through proper chiropractic care. Eventually, fusion of the vertebrae can occur and lead to very limited range of motion and unfortunately, surgical intervention.
Shoulder pain is a common reason patients seek chiropractic care. There are many causes of shoulder pain, and proper chiropractic evaluation is necessary to determine a customized chiropractic treatment plan for the cause of your shoulder pain.
Often times, shoulder pain is referred pain from a problem in the neck or back. Stress and tension can cause or exacerbate shoulder pain. Cervical degeneration is common in aging, especially if there is a history of even minor neck injuries. Lost range of motion in the neck as well as impinged nerves can lead to pain that radiates to the shoulders. Whiplash is another condition that can lead to shoulder pain. Upper back muscle, tendon, or ligament strains and sprains can also lead to referred pain felt in one of both shoulders.
Pain in the shoulders is also commonly caused from a direct injury, arthritis or inflammatory condition of the shoulder joint itself. A rotator cuff tear can be extremely painful. In the most severe cases when the tendon separates from the bone, surgery may be required. For less severe injuries, chiropractic care can encourage the healing process, offer pain relief, and offset further injury or degeneration felt in one of both shoulders.
Bursitis and rotator cuff tendinitis are usually the result of repetitive strain from repeated motions at work or sport. In both cases, painful inflammation can decrease range of motion and make lifting, stretching, and reaching difficult. Many patients complain of a deep ache that keeps them awake at night or after any length of inactivity of the shoulder joint. Although not as common as hip or knee arthritis, shoulder arthritis can also occur.
Acute injuries of the shoulder and upper arm include A/C tear (tear of the acromio-clavicular ligament), labral tear, or a bicep tendon rupture. Of course, the shoulder can be dislocated or become unstable due to trauma. Instability can also occur over time as a result of degeneration and inflammation of the shoulder joint.
Frozen shoulder is caused by the lack of motion and can be a frightening experience. Frozen shoulder can occur after shoulder surgery or even during recovery without surgery if the shoulder joint is not properly moved. During this time, it's important to follow your surgeon's recommendations on either physical therapy, or chiropractic follow-up.
After your evaluation, a custom chiropractic treatment plan can be determined. Initially, we'll work towards pain relief and reduced inflammation to maximize the healing process. In follow-up appointments there are many treatment options such as trigger point therapy, or natural botanical injections to facilitate healing. Whether you are suffering from a whiplash injury, or you've simply begun to notice more issues with your neck of shoulder, please call our office today and start down a pain free path!