Curvesday Thursday: Say Goodbye to Neck Pain

Your neck, also called the cervical spine, begins at the base of the skull and contains seven small vertebrae. Incredibly, the cervical spine supports the full weight of your head, which is on average about 12 pounds. While the cervical spine can move your head in nearly every direction, this flexibility makes the neck very susceptible to pain and injury.

The neck’s susceptibility to injury is due in part to biomechanics. Activities and events that affect cervical biomechanics include extended sitting, repetitive movement, accidents, falls and blows to the body or head, normal aging, and everyday wear and tear. Neck pain can be very bothersome, and it can have a variety of causes.

Here are some of the most typical causes of neck pain:

Injury and Accidents: A sudden forced movement of the head or neck in any direction and the resulting “rebound” in the opposite direction is known as whiplash. The sudden “whipping” motion injures the surrounding and supporting tissues of the neck and head. Muscles react by tightening and contracting, creating muscle fatigue, which can result in pain and stiffness. Severe whiplash can also be associated with injury to the intervertebral joints, discs, ligaments, muscles, and nerve roots. Car accidents are the most common cause of whiplash.

Growing Older: Degenerative disorders such as osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis, and degenerative disc disease directly affect the spine.

  • Osteoarthritis, a common joint disorder, causes progressive deterioration of cartilage. The body reacts by forming bone spurs that affect joint motion.
  • Spinal stenosis causes the small nerve passageways in the vertebrae to narrow, compressing and trapping nerve roots. Stenosis may cause neck, shoulder, and arm pain, as well as numbness, when these nerves are unable to function normally.
  • Degenerative disc disease can cause reduction in the elasticity and height of intervertebral discs. Over time, a disc may bulge or herniate, causing tingling, numbness, and pain that runs into the arm.

Daily Life: Poor posture, obesity, and weak abdominal muscles often disrupt spinal balance, causing the neck to bend forward to compensate. Stress and emotional tension can cause muscles to tighten and contract, resulting in pain and stiffness. Postural stress can contribute to chronic neck pain with symptoms extending into the upper back and the arms.

Chiropractic Care of Neck Pain
During your visit, your doctor of chiropractic will perform exams to locate the source of your pain and will ask you questions about your current symptoms and remedies you may have already tried. For example:

  • When did the pain start?
  • What have you done for your neck pain?
  • Does the pain radiate or travel to other parts of your body?
  • Does anything reduce the pain or make it worse?

Your doctor of chiropractic will also do physical and neurological exams. In the physical exam, your doctor will observe your posture, range of motion, and physical condition, noting movement that causes pain. Your doctor will feel your spine, note its curvature and alignment, and feel for muscle spasm. A check of your shoulder area is also in order. During the neurological exam, your doctor will test your reflexes, muscle strength, other nerve changes, and pain spread.

In some instances, your chiropractor might order tests to help diagnose your condition. An x-ray can show narrowed disc space, fractures, bone spurs, or arthritis. A computerized axial tomography scan (a CT or CAT scan) or a magnetic resonance imaging test (an MRI) can show bulging discs and herniations. If nerve damage is suspected, your doctor may order a special test called electromyography (an EMG) to measure how quickly your nerves respond.

Chiropractors are conservative care doctors; their scope of practice does not include the use of drugs or surgery. If your chiropractor diagnoses a condition outside of this conservative scope, such as a neck fracture or an indication of an organic disease, he or she will refer you to the appropriate medical physician or specialist. He or she may also ask for permission to inform your family physician of the care you are receiving to ensure that your chiropractic care and medical care are properly coordinated.

Neck Adjustments
A neck adjustment (also known as a cervical manipulation) is a precise procedure applied to the joints of the neck, usually by hand. A neck adjustment works to improve the mobility of the spine and to restore range of motion; it can also increase movement of the adjoining muscles. Patients typically notice an improved ability to turn and tilt the head, and a reduction of pain, soreness, and stiffness.

Of course, your chiropractor will develop a program of care that may combine more than one type of treatment, depending on your personal needs. In addition to manipulation, the treatment plan may include mobilization, massage and/or rehabilitative exercises, and/or acupuncture.

If you are experiencing neck pain, please call our office at (304) 263-4927 to schedule an appointment today to begin a personal, multi-faceted, drug-free treatment plan designed to provide relief and healing.


Stickin’ it Tue You: Acupuncture and Neck Pain Relief

Neck Pain“It’s a pain in the neck.”

You know you’ve hit the big time when you’re a metaphor for all things troubling, harrowing, aggravating, and stressful. Neck pain is certainly a well-known experience; each year, 10 percent of the world’s population struggles with it, according to the American College of Rheumatology (ACR). For some, acute neck pain is a temporary affliction, but for others, chronic suffering interferes with daily activities and lowers quality of life in the long term. 

Causes of Neck Pain

Neck pain isn’t often symptomatic of systemic illnesses. Only about 10 percent of cases have such causes, notes ACR. In those instances, polymyalgia rheumatica is a common culprit. Far more often, acute or chronic neck pain is seen in response to overuse, strain, muscle tension, injury, poor posture, osteoarthritis, herniated discs, spinal stenosis, and fibromyalgia.

Stress and anxiety are frequently implicated in neck pain because they produce significant muscle tension. As for injuries, whiplash and sports or exercise mishaps are typical underlying cause. Neck pain also thrives with acitivities of our modern lifestyle. Hunching over phones and e-readers, for example, or sitting for hours at a time at the computer and long drives contribute to problems.

Acupuncture Effectively Treats Neck Pain

Whether acute or chronic, people with neck pain find themselves eager for relief. Acupuncture has repeatedly demonstrated its efficacy for quickly providing relief from neck pain. As The New York Times reports, not only does acupuncture outperform placebo treatments for pain relief, the therapy also beats out standard care approaches.

 Acupuncture Safely Treats Neck Pain

Acupuncture doesn’t just work really well to remedy neck pain—it’s also safe, as the National Institutes of Health reassures with studies like “The Safety of Acupuncture.” It’s particularly telling to compare the noninvasive and holistic nature of acupuncture to the gold standard of pharmaceutical neck pain management, non-steroidal anti-inflammatroy drugs (NSAIDs).

While acupuncture generally causes no adverse effects or complications, the same cannot be said for NSAIDs like ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen. These are notably problematic for people seeking long-term pain management for chronic conditions. Stomach upset and headaches are common side effects, but NSAIDs can do serious bodily damage with continuing use. Bleeding in the stomach, increased stomach acid, high blood pressure, and kidney and liver damage are all concerns, notes WebMD.

 Neck Pain Treatment Versus Symptom Suppression

NSAIDs temporarily inhibit the body’s inflammatory response and block its ability to sense pain. In other words, they merely mask symptoms. In contrast, acupuncture not only soothes symptoms, it also works on underlying causes of the problem to provide actual treatment. This is why the therapy so consistently provides lasting relief from neck pain.

Acupuncture is well-suited to neck pain treatment for a variety of reasons. It provides fast results by triggering the release of endorphins and other pain-relieving chemicals. But it continues to work because it eases muscle tension and increases circulation and oxygenation in the affected area and throughout the entire body. It’s also world-famous for its ability to reduce the physical effects of stress, which is so often a primary concern with acute and chronic neck pain.


State of Our Health in the US


How do we measure up with the rest of the world on matters of health?

The Journal of American Medicine (JAMA) published in August 2013 the first ever report comparing the State of Health in the US to that of 34 countries on measures of diseases, injuries and risk factors associated with pre-matured mortality, years lived with disability, and disability adjusted life years.

Although it was not surprising to find in this report that chronic disease epidemics continue to spread across the world, but that US is doing much worse than many other countries with similar economic strength. This can be attributed to an aging population, however, a significant amount of data supports key findings of unhealthy lifestyles, diet and environment exposures that constitute the American way of life today are major influencers.

Among many interesting facts presented in this report are these:

• The diseases and injuries with the largest number of premature mortality in 2010 were ischemic heart disease, lung cancer, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and road injury.
(ALL of these are largely preventable diseases)

• Age-standardized premature mortality rates increased for Alzheimer disease, drug use disorders, chronic kidney disease, kidney cancer, and falls.
(MANY of these are preventable conditions)

• The diseases with the largest number of years lived with disability in 2010 were low back pain, major depressive disorder, other musculoskeletal disorders, neck pain, and anxiety disorders.
(SOME of these are preventable conditions)

• The leading risk factors relating to disability adjusted life years were dietary risks, tobacco smoking, high body mass index, high blood pressure, high fasting plasma glucose (Type II Diabetes), physical inactivity, and alcohol use.
(MOST of these are preventable risks)

So how can we use this information?

By changing our one-size-fits all method of health care to a more patient specific.

“How much better could we do if each patient received a comprehensive individualized functional medicine work-up and therapeutic intervention instead of a prescription? Performing an in-depth examination of the patient’s underlying dysfunctions, identifying the antecedents, triggers, and mediators of disease (including the contributions of environmental and lifestyle risks), and working to eliminate obstacles to healing within the context of a highly effective therapeutic partnership between patient and clinician is what functional medicine practitioners are known for—and that approach may well be the key to reversing and preventing not only diabetes but many other elements of the chronic disease epidemic as well.”Institute of Functional Medicine

Because of its focus on acute care, our current medical model often fails at confronting both the causes of and solutions for the chronic disease epidemic, and must be replaced with a model of comprehensive care and prevention that is systems-based, integrative, patient-centered, and much more effective.

For more information about Functional Medicine, visit our website: Chambers Chiropractic & Acupuncture.


US Burden of Disease Collaborators. The state of US health, 1990-2010. Burden of diseases, injuries, and risk factors. JAMA. 2013;310(6):591-608.