Do You Need To See A Chiropractor?
Did you ever wake up and wonder where your stiff neck came from? Or, as your workday progresses, you are more aware of the worsening stiffness in your neck? Maybe, on your drive home, you find it difficult to shoulder check in traffic? Sometimes it’s just a little tightness, but other times when you turn your head from side to side, your neck really, really hurts.
Neck Pain (continued)
When Should You See A Chiropractor For Neck Pain?
Here are a few things that you can try at home that may help with your symptoms.
Cold can reduce inflammation to an area that is irritated or injured. Hold a cold pack or a bag of frozen vegetables wrapped in a towel on your neck. A good rule of thumb is 15 minutes on, 60 minutes rest; then repeat. Have you ever cut yourself? Did the cut heal? Your body knows how to fix the stuff we mess up. It’s always on the job. So, try to remember, the inflammation that creates the stiffness, is there for a reason! The big question should always be “What’s causing this problem?” Then, the solution should be to deal with the cause, and not the symptom.
Check Your Pillow
When we are sleeping, we should try to keep our spine in a neutral position. You don’t want your neck to be flat against the bed, nor do you want your head propped up with your chin close to your chest. Make sure you use a pillow that supports the neck while allowing the head to sink in a bit. Sleep on your back or side. Never sleep on your stomach! After a long (or even short) night’s sleep, the muscles in your neck may be so stretched, you’re guaranteed to have a rough morning!
Try Neck Exercises
Light neck stretches can help to loosen stiff muscles. You may want to gently tense your neck muscles as you look up and down and then from side to side.
Be careful not to over-extend your neck beyond its normal limits though, or you may do more harm than good.
What About Driving?
Have you ever noticed that when you first learned to drive there seemed to be a thousand things to be aware of every second, now you can’t remember if you even stopped for red lights when you get home? Your brain has taken over all the little details, you don’t realize it, but your eyes and your head are moving around constantly keeping you safe and on the road. If your neck is stiff, it may limit your ability to shoulder check, or quickly respond to sudden events. If your neck is stiff and looking over your shoulder hurts, it may be a good idea to have someone else drive.
When Should You Get Your Neck Checked?
If you have already tried everything at home, and the problem persists, then it is time to get the cause identified and get it corrected.
Chiropractors specialize in correcting problems with the spine. After a consultation, a physical exam and X-rays, they help to restore normal function to stiff joints and irritated nerves through a chiropractic care plan that usually includes in-office exercises, chiropractic adjustments, vibration therapy, and specific home exercises.
See your chiropractor for neck pain if …
- You cannot look to the right or left without severe pain.
- Your neck pain or stiffness does not improve after a few days.
- Your neck pain started within a few days of a car accident.
- You feel like you must use over-the-counter pain medications just to make it through the day and are using it regularly to treat your neck pain.
- You’re worried that your neck pain may have a serious cause.
- Your neck pain started in the neck but has moved to numbness or tingling in your hands or wrists.
- Your neck pain is worse when you first wake up in the morning but then begins to feel a little better as the day progresses.
Your chiropractor will conduct a thorough consultation and examination – asking you questions about your symptoms, the history of your neck pain, what you have tried in the past to deal with it, and that things make it feel better.
During the examination your chiropractor will check to see how well you move your neck. He will look for tenderness or numbness and some tingling in your arms or hands.
Seeing your chiropractor for neck pain is always a good choice if you are aware of a specific injury that resulted in neck pain such as lifting, falling or a whiplash injury.
Injuries resulting from abnormal motion often cause muscles to become overextended and the vertebra in our neck to shift out of alignment. One of the more common ways we injure our upper spine and neck, is sitting at a computer, or looking down at our phones.
Through specific corrective care, your chiropractor can re-align your vertebra, get pressure off of the nerves, and restore normal motion in your neck.
What Causes The Neck Pain?
Your neck is made up of seven vertebrae, and between each of the vertebra are nerves and discs (gel-like pillows that provide a cushion between each vertebra).
If one or more of your vertebra shift out of alignment, they can crowd or “pinch” the nerves that run between them causing neck pain. This is called a subluxation, or the subluxation complex.
Vertebrae Can Shift Out Of Alignment When …
- Chronic poor posture (such as sitting hunched over on your phone all day).
- Your neck is stuck in an awkward position for a long period of time or such as painting your ceiling.
- You continually sleep on your stomach or use a flat pillow.
- Your neck is forced beyond its normal range of motion, like if you fall off a ladder or get whiplash from a car accident.
Whiplash is one of the most common injuries to the neck. It occurs when the neck experiences a sudden movement forward and backwards or from side to side. The most common cause is a car accident, but high velocity/impact sports (hockey, football) can cause whiplash as well.
This sudden movement overstretches or tears the tendons and ligaments in the neck.
How Can Neck Pain Be Prevented?
- Maintain good posture when you sit or stand.
- Move your computer monitor to eye level.
- Change your habits. Take micro-breaks throughout your day, especially if your job requires that you sit for long periods of time – or if you must take a long ride in the car.
- Use a proper pillow and sleep on your side or on your back.
- Learn to recognize your signs of stress and take steps to relieve stress in your life on a regular basis.
- Try regular exercises throughout the day and each week to maintain proper movement in your neck.
Dr. Dave Newsham has been focusing on corrective spinal care since 1999. If you would like to have your spine checked, !