Chiropractic for Neck Pain
Pain is the body’s universal system for indicating that something is wrong. Neck pain is a common condition that often demands attention, due to the sensitivity of the area and the difficulties that are presented when one’s mobility is limited by neck pain. In many cases, neck pain is minor and goes away on its own. When neck pain lasts for more than a day or two, however, it may be time to seek chiropractic care. By manipulating bones in your neck, a chiropractor can free the flow of the nervous system and alleviate neck pain.
How Chiropractic Treats Neck Pain
A Chiropractor, or a therapist who practices chiropractic, can make adjustments to the alignment of the spine and neck to alleviate back pain. According to the basic theories of chiropractic, a misalignment of the spine or other body structures can impact the nervous system in such a way as to cause pain or illness. By manipulating the bones in your neck, a chiropractor can fix the alignment of the spine allowing for proper functioning of the nervous system, alleviating pain and other symptoms. In some cases, complicated surgery can be avoided through chiropractic adjustments.
Neck pain may not resolve after one treatment session with a chiropractor. The chiropractor will evaluate a patient at the onset of therapy to determine the proper treatment course. The number of adjustments necessary varies based upon the nature of your condition and the health of your spine.
What Causes Neck Pain?
Your neck is very vulnerable to injury. Located at the top of the spinal column, the cervical bones in the neck support the head and are capable of a wide range of motion. While this large range of motion is highly useful, it often leads to stress being placed on the neck while it is in an awkward position, resulting in pain and stiffness.
Sources of this stress can be as simple as falling asleep with your neck at a bad angle. Other causes include bad posture while using a computer, watching TV or even reading a book. You may also experience neck pain as a result of accidents, chronic conditions, and even aging, when the effects of osteoarthritis, also known as degenerative joint disease, can manifest in neck pain.
What is Chiropractic?
The term “chiropractic” comes from the Greek word “chiro,” meaning “hand,” and “practice,” meaning “action” or “treatment.” This is an adequate description for the hands-on care that characterizes the field. While chiropractic dates back more than 2,000 years, and has been practiced in China, India, and Greece, it was not established as a modern health care practice until 1895.
Chiropractic focuses on the skeletal system’s role in the body’s overall health. Chiropractic doctors believe that proper skeletal alignment is a key component of good health, and that misalignment of this bony framework can pinch nerves and ultimately affect the normal functioning of body systems.
The most common treatment offered by chiropractors is a spinal manipulation or chiropractic adjustment, a hands-on manipulation of the spine used to bring it back into alignment and reduce nerve irritation. While this is the classic treatment, and probably the one most commonly associated with chiropractic, the field is continually evolving. Many chiropractors now employ aspects of other traditional and alternative medicine in their treatment, including hot and cold packs, massage, natural supplements, electrotherapy and naturopathy.
Unlike traditional pain treatments, chiropractic is a mechanical treatment. This type of treatment is particularly suited for pain conditions, since it can offer immediate relief. Chiropractic is a form of conservative care, meaning it does not use drugs or surgery, so there are no drug side effects associated with chiropractic treatment.
What Happens at a Chiropractic Session?
Patients may be surprised at their first visit to a chiropractor. As with a visit to a primary care physician, the first step is for the chiropractor to take a thorough patient history. This interview often includes accidents or injuries that may have caused the neck pain, any medical conditions, examination of the patient’s posture and other behavior. Many chiropractors also take x-rays to observe the structural orientation of your spine before performing any manipulations.
This phase is a crucial part of the process. As conservative care doctors, some conditions are outside the scope of chiropractic. During the initial diagnosis, the chiropractor may determine that the patient’s neck pain is the result of a neck fracture, an organic disease or other significant orthopedic or neurological condition. In these cases, the chiropractic will refer the patient to the appropriate specialist for further examination before providing any chiropractic care.
Once a chiropractor has determined that the patient’s neck pain is within the scope of conservative care, the chiropractor will often perform a spinal adjustment to alleviate the neck pain. During this procedure, the patient sits or lies on an adjusting table. Using any of the diagnostic information collected during the diagnosis phase, such as x-rays, the chiropractor will stand behind the patient and palpate the neck, examining each bone.
The chiropractor will then manipulate these bones by twisting the neck, usually in one swift motion on each side, palpating the area again afterwards to recheck the spinal alignment. For new patients who are not used to this experience, it can be difficult to relax the neck. Yet it is essential to do so, since tightening the neck muscles out of fear can interfere with the manipulation.
Is Chiropractic Care Safe for Neck Pain?
Since its establishment as a modern healthcare practice, controversy has surrounded chiropractic care. In fact, for most of the twentieth century, the United States medical establishment attempted to discredit the field. Only in recent years has the medical community accepted chiropractic care and subsequently medical doctors have begun to refer their patients to chiropractors.
The controversy still exists to some extent when it comes to treatment for neck pain, however. Specifically, there have been several attempts to prove a link between chiropractic care for neck pain and the risk of stroke. In rare cases, patients have suffered a vertebral artery dissection (VAD), a tear in one of the main arteries in the neck. This condition can lead to a blood clot, which in turn can block these blood vessels and lead to a stroke.
While this is a potentially fatal condition and patients should be aware of it, the most recent studies indicate that such trauma typically occurs in patients who were already at risk for VAD. In fact, a multi-year study recently released by the American Chiropractic Association concluded that the risk of VBA stroke associated with a visit to a chiropractor’s office appears to be no different from the risk of VBA stroke following a visit to a family physician’s office.
For most patients, a chiropractic adjustment alleviates the neck pain and rarely causes additional discomfort. That said, some patients may experience a mild soreness or aching following treatment, but this is usually temporary and only lasts a day or so.
Finding a Chiropractor
When looking for a chiropractor, it is important to make sure you find a licensed Doctor of Chiropractic (DC). Chiropractors undergo thorough training and licensing in their field to ensure the quality of care. You can check the credentials of your chiropractor at the American Chiropractic Association or the Congress of Chiropractic State Associations.
The American Chiropractic Association is the largest professional association for chiropractors in the world.
The Chiropractic Universe website offers general information and links to several articles on neck pain.
The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM), part of the National Institutes of Health, is the Federal Government’s lead agency for scientific research on CAM. On their website, you can find a wealth of information on chiropractic care, including the latest studies.
The Spine Universe website offers general information and links to several articles on neck pain.