If you’ve ever experienced neck pain, you know how aggravating it can be. You can’t turn your head to check your blind spot. At least not without the pain. Or the constant dull ache disrupts your daily routine. And the list just goes on. It’s estimated that 75 percent of Americans deal with neck pain at some point in their lives. Neck pain accounts for millions of trips to the doctor every year. At Georgia Clinic of Chiropractic (Augusta, GA) we see many patients who have spent hundreds if not thousands of dollars trying to find relief from neck pain before undergoing chiropractic care. Many are surprised at how quickly they are able to notice a significant improvement due to chiropractic. The New York Times recently published an article demonstrating how chiropractic and exercise are more effective than prescription medication.
Dr. Gert Bronfort, an author of the study cited in the article and research professor at Northwestern Health Sciences University in Minnesota, noted his reasons for the study included a lack of information on choices for people with neck pain. “There was a void in the scientific literature in terms of what the most helpful treatments are,” Bronfort said. He noted that the results showed chiropractic superior to medications. “Even a year later, there were differences between the spinal manipulation and medication groups,” Bronfort said. Not only did the group taking medications not fair as well in pain reduction, there was also a problem with usage as people kept taking them in an attempt to get help. “The people in the medication group kept on using a higher amount of medication more frequently throughout the follow-up period, up to a year later,” said Dr. Bronfort. “If you’re taking medication over a long time, then were running into more systemic side effects like gastrointestinal problems.”
The neck serves as a flexible connection between your head and the rest of your body and contains many important nerves and blood vessels. While the neck is connected to the spine, it is not as sheltered as the rest of the backbone. This means this slim structure is prone to problems that can compromise motion and lead to neck pain. What exactly are the components in the neck?
Let’s take a look:
- Cervical spinal cord. The cervical portion of your spinal cord is located in your neck. Your spinal cord sends messages through nerves from your brain to your body, and from your body back to your brain. The spinal cord stretches all the way down the length of your back.
- Vertebrae. The vertebrae are bones that encase and protect your spinal cord.
- Vertebral disks. Intervertebral disks are located between each vertebra and help to absorb shock and allow your spine greater flexibility.
- Muscles. Several different muscles in your neck support your skull and enable your neck to move.
- Vertebral ligaments. Ligaments in your neck stabilize your vertebrae and help hold them in place.
- Nerves. A network of nerves in your neck sends signals to your brain and body. When a vertebral disk places pressure on the nerves in your neck, you may experience neck pain. Many of the nerves in your neck stretch into your arms, which is why problems with the neck often lead to arm and shoulder symptoms, in addition to neck pain.
- Blood vessels. Many of your body’s most important arteries and veins are located in your neck, including your carotid arteries and jugular veins. Arteries carry oxygen-rich blood from your heart to the rest of your body, and veins carry blood back to your heart and lungs.
- Pharynx. The pharynx is a hollow tube that connects your nose and throat to your esophagus and trachea.
- Larynx. Your larynx, or voice box, sits just below your pharynx. It contains your vocal cords, which give you your voice.
- Trachea. Your trachea is the tube that allows air to flow between your mouth, nose, and lungs.
- Esophagus. The esophagus provides a passageway for food and liquid to move from the mouth into the stomach.
- Thyroid gland. The thyroid is an essential gland that is located in the front of the neck. It produces hormones that help regulate metabolism.
- Parathyroid glands. The parathyroid glands are small glands adjacent to the thyroid gland. They release a critical hormone that helps control the amount of calcium in the blood.
- Lymph nodes. Lymph nodes are located in many parts of your body, including the neck. They help to drain impurities out of the body and contain infection-fighting blood cells.
Any joint of the spine, from the neck all the way down to the sacroiliac joints, can cause mechanical pain. Joints are designed to move and when they do not, pain and degeneration occurs. Conservative treatment is designed for maximizing motion, improving flexibility and finally maximizing muscular coordination, endurance and strength. Given the vast components of your neck, any number of activities or accidents can trigger a need for chiropractic care. For example, whiplash, also called neck sprain or neck strain, is an injury to the soft tissues of the neck. It is usually caused by sudden extension (backward movement of the neck) and flexion (forward movement of the neck). This type of injury is often the result of rear-end car crashes. A stinger, on the other hand, is an injury that occurs when the head or neck is hit to one side, causing the shoulder to be pulled in the opposite direction. A side collision of this type causes immediate and intense pain, as well as a tingling or burning sensation in the neck that runs down the arm to the fingers.
Seeking chiropractic care tailored for your specific neck condition first would allow you to pursue a more conservative, nonsurgical avenue of care. We tell patients at Georgia Clinic of Chiropractic that neck surgery will always be there waiting for them should they need it as a last resort. In many cases, our patients are able to resolve their neck complaints without needing to rely on prescription drugs or invasive surgery. And we wouldn’t be surprised if you started checking your blind spots just for fun after chiropractic.
Georgia Clinic of Chiropractic is conveniently located off Furys Ferry Rd in Martinez, Georgia and provides quality chiropractic care to the Augusta, Martinez, and Evans communities. Visit our main website at www.georgia-clinic.com.