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Most people do not realise how much they move their neck during the day until they are unable to do so. The degree of flexibility of the neck, coupled with the fact that it has the least amount of muscular stabilisation and it has to support and move your 14 - 16 pound head, means that the neck is very susceptible to injury. You can picture your neck and head much like a bowling ball being held on top of a stick by small, thin, elastic bands. It doesn't take much force to disrupt that delicate balance.
The spinal cord runs through a space in the vertebrae to send nerve impulses to every part of the body. Between each pair of cervical vertebrae, the spinal cord sends off large bundles of nerves that run down the arms and to some degree, the upper back. This means that if your arm is hurting, it may actually be a problem in the neck! Symptoms in the arms can include numbness, tingling, cold, aching, and "pins and needles".
These symptoms can be confused with carpal tunnel syndrome, a painful condition in the hands that is often found in people who work at computer keyboards or perform other repetitive motion tasks for extended periods. Problems in the neck can also contribute to headaches, muscle spasms in the shoulders and upper back, ringing in the ears, otitis media (inflammation in the middle ear, often mistaken for an ear infection in children), temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ), restricted range of motion and chronic tightness in the neck and upper back.
We associate the neck and upper back together, because most of the muscles that are associated with the neck either attach to, or are located in, the upper back. These muscles include the trapezius, the levator scapulae, the cervical paraspinal muscles and the scalenes, as well as others.
Most neck and upper back pain is caused by a combination of factors, including injury, poor posture, vertebral subluxations, stress, and in some instances, disc problems.
By far, the most common injury to the neck is a whiplash injury. Whiplash is caused by a sudden movement of the head, either backward, forward, or sideways, that results in the damage to the supporting muscles, ligaments and other connective tissues in the neck and upper back. Whether from a car accident, sports, or an accident at work, whiplash injuries need to be taken very seriously. Because symptoms of a whiplash injury can take weeks or months to manifest, it is easy to be fooled into thinking that you are not as injured as you really are. Too often people don't seek treatment following a car accident or sports injury because they don't feel hurt. Unfortunately, by the time more serious complications develop, some of the damage from the injury may have become permanent. Numerous studies have shown that years after whiplash victims settle their insurance claims, roughly half of them state that they still suffer with symptoms from their injuries. If you have been in a motor vehicle or any other kind of accident, don't assume that you escaped injury if you are not currently in pain. Get checked out by one of our wellness experts.
One of the most common causes of neck pain, and sometimes headaches, is poor posture. It's easy to get into bad posture habits without even realising it - even an activity as "innocent" as reading in bed can ultimately lead to pain, headaches, and more serious problems. The basic rule is simple: keep your neck in a "neutral" position whenever possible. Don't bend or hunch your neck forward for long periods. Also, try not to sit in one position for a long time. If you must sit for an extended period, make sure your posture is good: Keep your head in a neutral position, make sure your back is supported, keep your knees slightly lower than your hips, and rest your arms if possible.
Subluxations in the neck and upper back area are extremely common due to the high degree of stress associated with holding up your head, coupled with the high degree of instability in the cervical spine. Most subluxations tend to be centered around four areas: the top of the cervical spine where it meets the skull; in the middle of the cervical spine where the mechanical stress from the head is the greatest; in the transition where the cervical and thoracic areas of the spine meet; and in the middle of the thoracic spine where the mechanical stress from the weight of the upper body is greatest. Signs of subluxation include looking in the mirror and seeing your head tilted or one shoulder higher than the other. Often women will notice that their sleeve length is different or that a necklace is hanging off center. If someone looks at you from the side they may notice that your head sits forward from your shoulders. This is known as AHC - anterior head carriage - and is very common for people who are stooped over their computers all day long. Subluxations are a debt to the body. If they are not taken care of soon after they occur, then they can get much worse over time due to the accumulation of compounding interest.
When most people become stressed, they unconsciously contract their muscles. In particular, the muscles in their back. This 'muscle guarding' is a survival response designed to guard against injury. In today's world where we are not exposed to physical danger most of the time, muscle guarding still occurs whenever we become emotionally stressed. The areas most affected are the muscles of the neck, upper back and low back. For most of us, the particular muscle affected by stress is the trapezius muscle, where daily stress usually leads to chronic tightness and the development of trigger points.
The two most effective ways you can reduce the physical effects of stress on your own are to increase your activity level - exercise - and by deep breathing exercises. When you decrease the physical effects of stress, you can substantially reduce the amount of tightness and pain in your upper back and neck.
The discs in your cervical spine can herniate or bulge and put pressure on the nerves that exit from the spine through that area. Although cervical discs do not herniate nearly as often as lumbar discs do, they occasionally can herniate, especially when the discs sustain damage from a whiplash injury.
At the Atlas Wellness Centre in Bedford we have many experts that specialise in natural interventions for a variety of conditions. Our team is made up of two former doctors of chiropractic who have gone on to specialise in advanced techniques to rehabilitate spinal abnormalities/injuries, nerve damage, and offer first class education in nutrition and exercise science all of which can help with mid-back and neck problems. We also have one chiropractor, one sports therapist and three massage therapists on the team, all of whom work as a team to reverse the root cause of mid-back and neck problems. Contact our clinic today!
THE EFFECT OF SPINAL MANIPULATION ON THE EFFICACY OF A REHABILITATION PROTOCOL FOR PATIENTS WITH CHRONIC NECK PAIN: A PILOT STUDY. Bernadette Murphy, PhD, DC, Heidi Haavik Taylor, PhD, BSc(Chiro), and Paul Marshall, PhD. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2010 Mar-Apr;33(3):168-77.
Effects of chiropractic care on dizziness, neck pain, and balance: a single-group, preexperimental, feasibility study. Richard G. Strunk DC, MSa, Cheryl Hawk DC, PhD. Journal of Chiropractic Medicine (2009) 8, 156-164.
Chiropractic care for patients with acute neck pain: results of a pragmatic practice-based feasibility study. Michael T. Haneline DC, MPH, Robert Cooperstein MA, DC. Journal of Chiropractic Medicine (2009) 8, 143-155.
Frequency & Duration of Chiropractic Care for Headaches, Neck and Upper Back Pain. John K. Maltby, DC, Donald D. Harrison, PhD, DC, MSE, Deed E. Harrison, DC, Joseph W. Betz, BS, DC, Joseph R. Ferrantelli, BS, DC, Gerard W. Clum, DC. J Vertebral Subluxation Res. August 21, 2008.
IMPROVEMENT AFTER CHIROPRACTIC CARE IN CERVICOCEPHALIC KINESTHETIC SENSIBILITY AND SUBJECTIVE PAIN INTENSITY IN PATIENTS WITH NONTRAUMATIC CHRONIC NECK PAIN. Per J. Palmgren, DC, Peter J. Sandstro, DC, Fredrik J. Lundqvist, DC, and Hannu Heikkila, MD, PhD. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2006 Feb;29(2):100-6.
SYMPTOMATIC OUTCOMES AND PERCEIVED SATISFACTION LEVELS OF CHIROPRACTIC PATIENTS WITH A PRIMARY DIAGNOSIS INVOLVING ACUTE NECK PAIN. Michael T. Haneline, DC. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2006 May;29(4):288-96.
EFFECTS OF A MANAGED CHIROPRACTIC BENEFIT ON THE USE OF SPECIFIC DIAGNOSTIC AND THERAPEUTIC PROCEDURES IN THE TREATMENT OF LOW BACK AND NECK PAIN. Craig F. Nelson, DC, MS, R. Douglas Metz, DC, and Thomas LaBrot, DC. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2005 Oct;28(8):564-9.
Chiropractic for neck pain: A pilot study examining whether the duration of the pain affects the clinical outcome. Alison Bale, and Dave Newell. Clinical Chiropractic (2005) 8, 179-188.
DETERMINING THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN CERVICAL LORDOSIS AND NECK COMPLAINTS. Jeb McAviney, MS(Chiro), Dan Schulz, BSc, Richard Bock, MS(Chiro), Deed E. Harrison, DC, and Burt Holland, PhD. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2005 Mar-Apr;28(3):187-93.
DOSE RESPONSE FOR CHIROPRACTIC CARE OF CHRONIC CERVICOGENIC HEADACHE AND ASSOCIATED NECK PAIN: A RANDOMIZED PILOT STUDY. Mitchell Haas, DC, Elyse Groupp, PhD, Mikel Aickin, PhD, Alisa Fairweather, MPH, Bonnie Ganger, Michael Attwood, Cathy Cummins, DC, and Laura Baffes, DC. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2004 Nov-Dec;27(9):547-53.
Chiropractic management of mechanical neck and low-back pain: a retrospective, outcome-based analysis. Gordon McMorland, DC, and Esther Suter, PhD. Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, 2000 Jun;23(5):307-11.
Randomised clinical trial of manipulative therapy and physiotherapy for persistent back and neck complaints:results of one year follow up. Koes B.W., et. al. BMJ, 1992 Mar 7;304(6827):601-5.
Spinal manipulation and mobilisation for back and neck pain: a blinded review. Koes B.W., et. al. BMJ, 1991 Nov 23;303(6813):1298-303.
FUNCTIONAL SCORES AND SUBJECTIVE RESPONSES OF INJURED WORKERS WITH BACK OR NECK PAIN TREATED WITH CHIROPRACTIC CARE IN AN INTEGRATIVE PROGRAM: A RETROSPECTIVE ANALYSIS OF 100 CASES. Donald Aspegren, DC, MS, Brian A. Enebo, DC, PhD, Matt Miller, MD, Linda White, MD, Venu Akuthota, MD, Thomas E. Hyde, DC, and James M. Cox, DC. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2009 Nov-Dec;32(9):765-71.
Chiropractic care of a 6-year-old girl with neck pain; headaches; hand, leg, and foot pain; and other nonmusculoskeletal symptoms. Jan Roberts DC, and Tristy Wolfe MA. Journal of Chiropractic Medicine (2009) 8, 131-136.
CONSERVATIVE TREATMENT OF A PATIENT WITH PREVIOUSLY UNRESPONSIVE WHIPLASH-ASSOCIATED DISORDERS USING CLINICAL BIOMECHANICS OF POSTURE REHABILITATION METHODS. Joseph R. Ferrantelli, DC, Deed E. Harrison, DC, Donald D. Harrison, DC, PhD, and Denis Stewart, MD. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2005 Mar-Apr;28(3):e1-8.
Chiropractic management of 'intractable' chronic whiplash syndrome. Leiza Alpass. Clinical Chiropractic (2004) 7, 16-23.
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" ... it's just amazing!"
Malcolm & Pat Pete
Atlas Wellness Centre (Atlas): Can you tell me your names, please?
Malcolm: Yes, Malcolm James Pete.
Pat: Pat Pete.
Atlas: And what made you want to come and see us in the first place.
Malcolm: Well, I’ve been suffering with severe pain in lower back and legs for two, three years really. I had several hip operations which supposedly were designed to cure the problem. But they had absolutely no effect and I would say in desperation, I saw your advertisement in the local paper. It sounded very good. So I thought, “Let’s give this a try.”
Atlas: And how would you say that having the health problems affected your life before you came in?
Malcolm: It stopped me doing most things that I enjoy doing. I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t go for walks. I couldn’t garden. Found it extremely difficult to do any jobs around the house and was virtually confined to a wheelchair.
Atlas: And how would you say things have changed since you started having the care here?
Malcolm: Since I’ve had the care, I’ve lost 95 percent of all the pain that I was suffering with. I rarely use the wheelchair now unless in fact I’m – got a lot of walking to do and I can rely on a walking frame and now I can get about comfortably with a walking frame. My only problem now is that it has been so long since I’ve walked that I’ve got to build up my stamina and balance before I can really try to walk without any support at all.
Atlas: And Pat, would you say you noticed changes with Malcolm?
Pat: Definitely. He’s not taking any painkillers now. He was on quite a lot of painkillers. Within about three weeks to a month, he had dispensed with all the painkillers. It’s so good for both of us. He’s much more independent. I don’t have to push him around in a wheelchair, so it has made a lot of difference to my life too. Yeah, it’s just amazing!
Atlas: Excellent. What would you say to someone who’s maybe a bit worried, a bit – about coming here for the first time?
Malcolm: I would tell them to come along without any concerns at all. I found the people – all of the people I’ve come in contact with to be very helpful. They explain what’s going to happen and there’s absolutely nothing to worry about. But the benefits can be immense.