Neck pain is the second most common condition we treat in our office. Studies show that 30-50% of us will experience a significant acute episode of neck pain. Unfortunately, up to 50% of those episodes result in recurrent or chronic neck pain. That means 15-25% of people are experiencing ongoing neck pain that results in disability, days missing work, and missing out on life. This is why seeking care early on for neck pain is so important!
Neck pain is common for several reasons. One major factor is the increased use of technology, with computers and cell phones, worsening postures and muscular imbalances. Our head weighs approximately 12 lbs, equivalent to a bowling ball! For every inch our head translates forward, the force on the structures of our neck increases by 10 lbs. Additionally, forward head posture alters the biomechanics of the neck, meaning tissues are being used in a way they were not designed. This results in those tissues becoming inflamed and painful and, over time, injured or degenerative.
The tissues of our neck include vertebrae, discs, joints, ligaments, and muscles, all of which house and protect our nervous system. When in balance, these tissues work together to provide smooth, stable motion of our neck. These tissues can be injured by sudden forces from a traumatic event. Whiplash from a motor vehicle accident, straining while lifting, or holding prolonged “awkward” positions like sleeping with your neck twisted are all examples. Conversely, chronic abnormal forces can also cause the tissues of our neck to become dysfunctional, tight, inflamed, and painful. If abnormal forces persist, tissues can further maladapt and become weakened and degenerative, making them susceptible to injury or chronic pain. These acute and chronic neck conditions are described in detail below.
When treating neck pain, it’s crucial to identify the specific tissues involved and address the root cause of the problem. Taking pain medication, doing random stretches or exercise, or getting a massage simply mask the problem and can be largely ineffective at truly resolving neck pain. Brown Chiropractic’s detailed examination process and comprehensive care plans are designed to quickly get you out of pain and create long-term resilience.
$25 New Patient Neck Pain Health Screening
$25 for a complete chiropractic health screening including a consultation, exam, X-rays if necessary, a report of findings, and a plan of action.
How Our Neck Pain Care Plan Works
At Brown Chiropractic, we treat people, not conditions. Our first priority is to get to know our patients, their lifestyles, and their goals for care. This allows us to partner with them and together create a care plan that is both individualized and specific to their needs.
Our comprehensive evaluation process not only identifies painful tissues but also the root cause of the condition. This allows us to take our patients through a step-by-step plan that gets them out of pain quickly and with lasting results.
Patients often find they not only get out of pain but feel better than they ever could have imagined. This allows them to perform at a higher level in all aspects of their life.
How We Treat Neck Pain in Yarmouth, ME
Comprehensive Consultation and Exam
Identifying the root cause of the problem
The first step to treating neck pain is our consultation. We’ll get to know you, understand your symptoms, their effect on your life, and your goals for care. We then perform a comprehensive evaluation. This includes:
- Orthopedic and neurological testing to identify what tissues of the neck are injured and painful
- Chiropractic spinal analysis to identify restrictions and malalignments of the spinal segments
- Functional movement screen to determine abnormal postures, muscle imbalances, and dysfunctional movements that contribute to overloading and damaging tissues
All of this is designed to get to the root cause of your neck pain so your care can be effective and efficient. If we identify that further testing is necessary, we can order X-rays or an MRI. Similarly, if we feel that a collaborative approach for your neck pain is indicated, we can work with your PCP or refer you to specialists, including orthopedists, physiatrists, neurologists, and more.
Specific Chiropractic Care
The best of myofascial release and adjusting
The first goal of care for neck pain is to provide our patients with relief and facilitate healing. We do this by restoring motion and function to the restricted segments of your neck with a chiropractic adjustment. These restrictions can contribute to your pain through local muscle spasms, weakness, and altered control of the movement within your neck, perpetuating the problem.
When we adjust your cervical spine, it normalizes the sliding and gliding of joints reducing muscle tension and optimizing the biomechanics of your neck. In addition to adjustments, we use myofascial release and assisted stretching to provide more complete relief and normalize the mobility of your neck. This makes stretching and doing exercises on your own more comfortable and effective for correcting neck pain.
Custom Therapeutic Exercise Plan
For faster recovery and long-term resilience
During your movement screen, we will identify any abnormal postures, muscle imbalances, and movement dysfunction contributing to your neck pain. Each patient receives a customized program designed around their specific needs and goals for care. For neck pain, we typically work towards reducing forward head and shoulder posture by reducing tension in the chest and upper traps and restoring dynamic stability of the neck while increasing range of motion.
Cold Laser and Other Modalities
For severe pain management and faster healing
In some cases, there can be significant inflammation in the tissues of your neck and or severe muscle spasms. This can initially make manual therapy and adjustments uncomfortable or difficult. When this occurs, we have various options to reduce pain and inflammation and speed up healing. These include:
- Electric Stimulation – electrical pulses are sent through the skin to muscles and nerves and can be used to reduce muscle spasm and pain.
- Ultrasound – sound waves sent into tendons and muscles increase blood flow speeding up healing.
- Cold Laser – emitting low-frequency light, like ultrasound, increases blood flow, stimulates cellular activity, and reduces inflammation and pain, speeding up tissue healing.
Reducing forward head posture by restoring normal spinal curvature
Many of our patients present with “tech neck” or forward head posture. Unfortunately, if this has been going on for a long time, the ligaments and other soft tissue can shorten, causing the normal curve of the neck to be flattened or even reversed. This altered structure is most evident with a neck X-ray.
Chiropractic adjustments and exercises are great for restoring functional ability, and can start the process of normalizing the curve in your neck. However, if correction of the cervical curves is a goal for care, a more intensive approach is necessary. In this case, we prescribe cervical traction and monitor and guide you through gradually stretching and increasing the length of the ligaments and soft tissues. This is accomplished by laying on your back with a bolster under your neck and upper back while under tension.
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Common Causes of Neck Pain
Otherwise known as a chiropractic subluxation
The most common cause of neck pain is “benign mechanical neck pain.” This is a catch-all term used for uninjured tissues that aren’t functioning as they should. Chiropractors call this segmental joint dysfunction or subluxation, and we describe it as a loss of normal sliding and gliding of joints and the resulting local muscle dysfunction, including spasm and or weakness. Because neck function relies on all segments working together, a single dysfunctional joint can significantly alter your neck’s global motion and biomechanics. Chiropractors are the leading experts at finding and normalizing segmental dysfunction with adjustments.
Chronic tight muscles or “trigger points”
We all have experienced muscle tension in our necks at one point or another. This can be relatively mild and come and go without significant issue. Unfortunately, it can also snowball into a chronic painful situation causing mechanical neck pain, headaches, and more. Myofascial pain is typically a direct result of poor postures and repetitive overuse, usually in combination with stress. Massage can give you temporary relief, but lasting correction of this condition requires a complete systematic approach that includes adjusting, manual therapy, and, most importantly, strengthening exercises.
Bulging and Herniated Discs
The spinal discs are the shock-absorbing, major movable structures of the spine. This predisposes them to injury and degenerative changes such as bulges and herniations. Disc bulges are broad degenerative changes to the disc’s outer fibers, allowing the inner material to bulge outwards. Disc bulging can be completely asymptomatic or, at times, a significant contributor to neck pain. Disc herniations are acute events when the tearing of the exterior disc fibers allows a focal amount of disc material to displace abruptly, often placing pressure on nerves.
The tearing of the disc can cause severe neck and shoulder blade pain. Nerve pressure and inflammation resulting from the disc herniation can cause significant pain, numbness, and tingling in the shoulder, arm, and hand. Although extremely painful, disc herniations can and should be managed conservatively, and 96% resolve without surgical intervention. Adjustments, soft tissue work, and specific exercise protocols help reduce pressure on nerves and can help manage pain while speeding up recovery. At Brown Chiropractic, we place a particular emphasis on neck traction to relieve nerve pressure.
Degenerative Disc Disease
DDD for short
Like any structure of our body, our discs can wear out and thin over time. This is usually related to a history of trauma to the region or abnormal biomechanics taking their toll over decades. With poor posture, the discs in the lower neck (C5-C6, C6-C7) tend to absorb more force than they are designed for and are where we most commonly find DDD in the neck. This can lead to stiffness and pain and predispose you to severe pain episodes. Unfortunately, any degenerative changes cannot be undone. We treat DDD with chiropractic adjustments that can relieve pain and increase whatever motion is available. Manual therapy and exercise can further improve range of motion and stabilize the region to slow or prevent further degeneration of the discs.
Sprains (ligament) and strains (muscles) of neck structures
Whiplash is an event most associated with motor vehicle accidents where the sudden deceleration of a vehicle causes the neck to snap back and forth. This can cause severe damage to the neck’s soft tissues, including tearing of ligaments, muscles, and discs. Because these structures provide stability and mobility of the neck, rehabilitation for whiplash can be a slow process. This is because when a sprain (the tearing of a ligament) occurs, that tissue heals but does not return to normal tension.
To restore neck function, the neck muscles must be trained to make up for the instability this causes, especially when moving your neck. Milder sprains and strains can occur with sports or other mild impacts, sometimes even from turning your neck too quickly. The degree of tissue damage, inflammation, and other factors dictates the recovery time. Chiropractic care is very effective for managing pain and restoring neck function and motion after injury.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is a chiropractor in Yarmouth, ME good for neck pain?
Absolutely! Most causes of neck pain will respond to all or some of the treatments we offer at Brown Chiropractic. If a trial of care at our office proves ineffective or an obvious need is identified during the examination, then a referral to an orthopedist will be made. If this occurs, rest assured that you did everything possible to avoid a more invasive treatment option.
When should you see a chiropractor for neck pain?
A single mild episode of neck pain is probably not concerning. However, if you have repetitive neck pain episodes, a severe episode of neck pain, or ongoing pain, it is essential to identify the cause and treat it. This is especially true if you have symptoms that radiate into or cause weakness in your shoulder or arm.
Is it okay to pop my own neck?
Generally, gently self-manipulating your neck a couple of times a day should be fine, especially if it occurs organically with stretching or ranges of motion. However, repeated or aggressive self-manipulation can loosen ligaments and potentially injure soft tissues.
Is a massage or chiropractic better for neck pain?
Massage can be great for reducing tension or trigger points in muscles that cause neck pain. You may get significant relief from massage! However, neck pain is usually more complex than that. Massage therapists are not trained in pathology or in diagnosing or managing significant spinal conditions. Your neck pain may exhibit tight muscles but likely includes other tissues like joints and nerves. Ideally, we work with your massage therapist so they can address the tight muscles more extensively, giving your chiropractor more time to focus on other tissues and management of the causes and factors related to your neck pain.
Do medical doctors recommend chiropractors for neck pain?
We receive referrals from PCPs, orthopedists, massage therapists, acupuncturists, and more all the time for neck pain and headaches associated with neck pain.
Are chiropractors covered by insurance for neck pain?
Yes, we take all major insurance companies in our area. Our office can run a complimentary check of your coverage and benefits.
How can I relieve my neck pain?
In short, a routine of neck stretching, strengthening, and self-myofascial release can be quite effective for giving short-term relief. In some cases, it may resolve the issue. However, if joints are restricted or other factors need to be addressed, the relief may be temporary.
How should I sleep with neck pain?
I recommend using a single pillow that is the correct size to keep the head level while lying on your side. When laying on your back, be sure the pillow isn’t too large and slide it so the bottom of the pillow touches the top of your shoulder blades. The goal is to prevent your head from being forced forward, like with tech-neck.
Why does my neck hurt on one side?
This can be related to being dominant on one hand and performing a repetitive task. It can also be related to asymmetrical postures stemming from your pelvis and back that your neck is compensating for.
How can you tell if your neck is out of alignment?
Pain is usually a good indicator that something is out of alignment. However, in the absence of obvious pain, I usually tell people if you’re having a hard time getting comfortable in bed or sitting for an hour, there is usually a joint restriction and or muscle accumulating stress. It’s much easier to find it and fix it before you feel pain than to heal tissues when they have become inflamed or injured.