Photo: BodyParts3D, © The Database Center for Life Science – CC Attribution-Share Alike 2.1 Japan.
There are many causes of neck pain, so here we will discuss some of the most common reasons that people present with to our office. While some people will come to see us for help with whiplash or a big fall, the majority of people are suffering from more of a chronic type of neck pain. From sitting all day at work, to typing at a computer, to frequently nursing a baby, the tightness and tensions of everyday life get stored in our spines and cause uncomfortable (and often unbearable) neck pain.
Causes of neck pain
The average human head weighs about ten to twelve pounds, the weight of a bowling ball! When we are in perfect alignment, the cervical curve (vertebrae forming the curve in our neck), beautifully bears the weight of our head. With poor posture (causing less-than perfect alignment), the muscles in the neck have to work overtime to help out. The bones are unable to fully perform their task of supporting the head once it starts to shift forward, so the muscles pitch in to try to do this support. Muscles are designed to contract and lengthen, not to bear weight, therefore they quickly fatigue under this added stress.
Researchers have shown that for every inch of forward head translation (head shifting forward in space like a turtle sticking his head out) due to poor posture, the effective weight of the head is elevated by 10 pounds. For a twelve pound head, held three inches forward of normal, causes the neck extensors (muscles in the back of the neck), to hold a weight of 42 pounds against the effects of gravity!
As you can see, this is a huge load to bear, and the biggest reason that muscles fatigue! What happens when a muscle fatigues is that with it’s constant contraction, it is deprived of oxygen. When a muscles doesn’t have oxygen, the body kicks off an inflammatory process in which adhesions are laid down in the muscles. These adhesions remain until treated! Ice, heat, stretching, and ibuprofen, may give you some temporary pain relief, but they won’t reduce the adhesions!
Neck pain develops in much the same way during other repetitive activities such as cycling (riding for hours in a crunched position with head tilted up to view the road), running (muscles working overtime to stabilize the head and keep vision steady), and physical work (looking up the whole time you’re painting the ceiling, awkward postures working in a cramped space, carrying heavy sheets of material). So what is the treatment for neck pain?
Treatment of neck pain
The most effective way to treat the muscle adhesions that cause neck pain is to receive Active Release Techniques (ART) treatments. Active Release Techniques is a hands-on soft tissue treatment system, which involves shortening a muscle, the practitioner taking a thumb or hand contact on the adhesion, and then lengthening the muscle to break down the adhesion. This is a 100% natural treatment approach, which allows you to spare the stress and cost associated with drugs and surgery.
Oakland chiropractor Dr. Sandy Baird teating neck pain
Your Oakland chiropractor will also check whether any of the joints in the neck have become fixated. If so, a gentle, specific adjustment will be delivered to restore motion to the “stuck” joint.
If you are having any pain radiating down your arm that seems to be coming from your neck, your chiropractor will be able to evaluate your neck, shoulder, and arm to determine where the pain is coming from. The nerves that exit the neck, travel down the arm into the hand, and the nerve can become “blocked” by either adhesions of the soft tissues, or by joint fixation of the neck, shoulder, elbow, or wrist. Any of these areas are within the scope of a sports chiropractor to treat. If your radiating pain is coming from a disc issue in your neck, your chiropractor is trained to treat and manage this condition as well.