Neck Pain Problems
Neck pain and its related conditions are extremely common. Many people are unaware that even non-symptomatic problems with their neck can cause or contribute to a number of common health problems like headaches, vertigo, TMJ pain, upper back pain, and carpal tunnel syndrome.
Without a thorough understanding of neck biomechanics, many problems are not properly addressed and treatment provides temporary symptom improvement at best.
Cervical spine (neck) dysfunction can begin for a variety of reasons and typically precedes outright pain. Some of these reasons may be related to posture, improper ergonomics, altered breathing patterns, or trauma.
When improper posture is the cause, the spine changes and adapts over time to compensate for the altered positions. This can go on for some time before symptoms begin to surface. Eventually, abnormal stresses and strains cause an outright injury. By the time this happens, there may be much work to do in correcting these postural faults. Similarly, if ergonomic conditions are less than ideal, repetitive stresses and strains to joints and soft tissues will cause compensatory patterns to develop. Over time, this can lead to an outright injury with underlying altered biomechanics.
We are designed to breathe primarily from our belly, using our diaphragm. However, a common pattern of dysfunction is seen when people begin to breathe from their chest. “Chest breathing” causes an overuse of certain muscles of the neck, which will begin to alter the posture and function of the neck over time. Individuals with altered breathing patterns cannot fully recover from neck pain or related issues without correcting this problem.
Trauma, such as from a fall or a car accident, can have long-term effects on the cervical spine. Car accidents in particular, even at low impact, can cause significant injuries. This is due to the complex forces experienced by the occupant at impact. These injuries can cause damage to joints, discs, ligaments, muscles and tendons. The injuries cause altered biomechanics, which will typically not be restored without the proper corrective action. Even minor injuries can alter normal function, setting in motion a progressive pattern of dysfunction, of which symptoms may not be experienced for weeks or even months. This is why an evaluation is essential after a motor vehicle accident, even in the absence of significant symptoms.
Problems related to an improperly functioning neck are common and may be debilitating. Many individuals suffering from health problems related to cervical spine dysfunction seek care from health professionals. Unfortunately, many health professionals do not understand the role that altered spine function plays in these conditions. The result is the focus of treatment being placed on the symptoms instead of the cause of the problem. Some examples are prescribing pain medication for headaches, surgery for TMJ pain, surgery for a “pinched nerve” in the neck, and surgery for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome.
These problems are shown to often times have many contributing factors.
These factors include such issues as spinal joint dysfunction (malfunctioning of the spinal joints), muscle imbalances, weakness of the supporting spinal musculature (Deconditioning Syndrome), improper movement patterns, poor posture/ergonomic habits, and chronic inflammation.
Because these problems tend to be complex, and the associated symptom pattern can be so diverse, a multi-specialty team approach is best.
In this model, not only are the specialists each doing what they are best at doing, they are working together as a team to provide the optimum benefit for the patient.
The primary goal initially is to return the individual to function as quickly as possible. This is followed up with patient education on spinal strengthening and posture, skill training, and ergonomic modification to best prevent recurrences.
This approach has shown quicker recovery times, faster return to work, decreased re-injury rates, and less dependence on therapists and medication.