Atlantic Coast Chiropractic

Help, What Is This Pain in My Neck!

“When I woke up this morning, I couldn’t move my neck!  Every time I try to move it, I feel sharp pain on the left side of the neck shooting down into the shoulder blade.  It just came out of nowhere!”

Neck pain is a very common problem affecting up to 70% of the adult population at some point in life.  Though there are specific causes of neck pain such as arising from a sports injury, a car accident or sleeping crooked, the vast majority of the time, no direct cause can be identified.

Chances are, you are suffering from a common condition called torticollis, which literally means, “twisted neck.” This is basically a painful muscle spasm, like a “Charlie-horse” but located in the neck muscles.  Usually, a person wakes up in the morning with this and the cause is often related to a sleeping position. It can also relate to a “cold settling in the muscle” after a cold or flu virus.  Trauma such as falling or a car accident can also cause torticollis. However, most of the time, patients with torticollis are not sure what caused the abrupt onset of symptoms

Usually, torticollis will gradually improve over a 2 to 4 week time frame. However, it only takes a few days to a week (at the most) if you receive chiropractic adjustments.  Most importantly, without treatments, the sharp pain can last a week and can severely limit your activity, often prohibiting work as well as your desired fun activities.  Hence, most people prefer having this treated as opposed to waiting it out. In some cases, it can last longer than a month and in rare cases even longer, so getting this treated is highly recommended. 

Wouldn’t it be nice to know what neck related symptoms are most likely to respond to chiropractic treatment before you get started?  This issue has been investigated with very favorable results! The ability to predict a favorable response to treatment has been termed, clinical prediction rules which in general, are usually made up of combinations of things the patient says and findings from exams.

In a large study, data from about 20,000 patients receiving about 29,000 treatments, was collected and analyzed to find out what complaints responded well to chiropractic treatment.  The results showed that the presence of any 4 of these 6 presenting complaints predicted an immediate improvement in 70-95% of the patients: 1. Neck pain; 2. Shoulder, arm pain; 3. Reduced neck, shoulder, arm movement; 4. Stiffness; 5. Headache; and 6. Upper, mid back pain. Items not associated with favorable immediate response included numbness, tingling upper limbs, fainting/dizziness, and light-headedness in 4-12% of the patients.  The take-home message here is that chiropractic treatment sees a favorable response (70-95%) of the patients compared to an unfavorable response (4-12%), supporting the observation that most patients with neck complaints will respond favorably to chiropractic treatment.

            So, what do we do as chiropractors when a patient presents with neck pain?  A list of treatment options may include:

  1. Adjustments
  2. Soft tissue therapy (trigger point stimulation, myofascial release)
  3. Physical therapy modalities
  4. Posture correction exercises and other exercises
  5. Education about job modifications
  6. Co-management with other health care providers if/when needed. 

Here are some self-administered therapies that can help acute neck pains:

  • Analgesics
  • Heat packs
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Rubs and ointments  (BioFreeze)
  • Massage with essential oils
  • Mild neck movements
  • Supportive cervical collar

In next month’s blog we will go over specific stretches and movements one can do to speed up the healing ability to recover from neck pain.

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Monday
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