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We’ve all had those mornings, right? You wake up and your neck is so stiff, you can hardly turn it to one side or the other. Most of us say we “slept on it wrong” or something similar, and many times, it goes away on its own.
What happens when it doesn’t? Or what do you do if this neck pain shows up suddenly, with no warning? When do you see a chiropractor for neck pain?
Of course, there are light stretching exercises and things you can do at home to see if the pain goes away. Some home remedies include:
Don’t drive if you can’t turn your head! This could be very dangerous and result in an accident. Get a ride from a friend or co-worker or call in sick. Better to miss a day of work than be involved in a car wreck that might be your fault because you couldn’t turn your head to check traffic.
You should see your chiropractor in Wasilla if any of the following are true:
✓ You can’t look to either side without severe pain
✓ Your pain or stiffness does not improve within 72 hours
✓ You must take pain medication to deal with your neck
✓ It started as neck pain but now has moved to tingling or numb feelings in your hands or wrists
✓ Your neck “doesn’t feel right”
✓ The pain or stiffness in your neck began within 7 days of having a car accident
✓ Your neck pain is worse at a certain time of day (in the morning or in the evening for example) but is better at other times of the day
✓ Your neck pain started after a fall or other type of accident
Don’t think that you shouldn’t “bother” a chiropractor with a stiff neck! On the contrary, stiff or painful necks are the second most common problem people go to the chiropractor for! Neck pain is second only to low back pain. This can be a serious condition, so don’t hesitate to call your Wasilla chiropractor!
Your head weighs an average of 12 pounds and it’s supported by your neck, which has only 7 small vertebrae. Is it any wonder that our necks are susceptible to injury, stiffness, and pain?
Some of the most common causes of a stiff neck or neck pain include:
✓ Poor posture
✓ Tech neck (sometimes called text neck)
✓ Accidents, including whiplash due to car accidents, slips and falls, bicycle accidents
✓ Degenerative issues, such as osteoarthritis
✓ Spinal stenosis
✓ Stress and tension
✓ Degenerative disease of the discs in the neck
Your chiropractor at the clinic in Wasilla will begin with a comprehensive examination and consultation. The doctor will ask you about your medical history, questions about your symptoms, discuss where you feel the pain and what, if anything, seems to make your neck feel better or worse.
During an exam, the doctor will look at your range of motion, possible tenderness in certain areas of the neck, examine your hands and wrists or he might order x-rays to see if damage happened because of a fall or car accident.
Depending on what conclusions the doctor reaches, they will offer you a treatment plan and explain how each part is designed to help stop your neck pain and stiffness.
This would depend on what the cause of your neck pain is. In most cases, it is best to let your Wasilla chiropractor determine the root cause. If your neck needs a massage, they can provide chiropractic massage, which is performed with the guidance of the chiropractor.
A massage therapist is great for simple tension or stress, but they cannot take x-rays or determine the root cause. If your neck pain is from an accident, you most likely will need additional types of therapy, which a regular massage therapist cannot provide.
Your chiropractor will determine if you have a normal curvature to your cervical spine, which is what the neck area is called.
Chiropractors typically see the following types of neck curves:
This is a normal, healthy curve to the vertebra in the neck. It looks like a loose C shape, curving away from your face.
Sometimes called the Kyphotic cure, this is a dangerous type of curve because the neck has lost its natural shape. The C is facing the throat area, connecting the thoracic and cervical curve.
This might be the most difficult type of curve to correct and requires careful planning from your chiropractor.
This means there is no curve or a very slight curve. In an X-ray, the neck appears to be straight up and down.
An incorrect curve to the neck is not only painful, but it leads to premature degeneration of the spine and the discs.
For the relief of neck pain or to manage the pain caused from other conditions, chiropractic care offers safe, non-invasive, drug-free care.
Using chiropractic adjustments, the vertebra in the neck are realigned to their proper position, reducing pressure on the neck and allowing the muscles to relax. This also reduces inflammation and improves the function of the central nervous system.
When your neck is in proper alignment, you will have improved flexibility, less pain, and lower levels of inflammation.
Your chiropractor might also include other therapies, depending on their diagnosis, including chiropractic massage, ice packs, stretching exercises and/or strengthening exercises.
Chiropractic care is extremely effective when it comes to reducing or eliminating most types of neck pain. One study found that after 8 weeks of chiropractic care, almost all patients said they had “very satisfying results” with their chronic neck pain.
One of the hard truths about neck pain is that a person is 4 times as likely to have it reoccur once it becomes severe enough they seek medical attention.
While neck pain can occur because of several reasons, there are ways that Wasilla residents can prevent neck pain or reduce the severity of pain.
Remember that neck pain, unless caused by trauma, is a late sign of problems. Some problems which cause neck pain are arthritis, spinal stenosis, and degeneration of the discs in the neck. Making regular chiropractic check-ups a part of your overall health program can help spot problems before they become severe.
Most people stand with their head and shoulders slumped forward. This type of posture puts a strain on the ligaments and muscles of the neck. Every inch that the head is pushed away from the shoulder adds as much as 10 extra pounds of pressure to the neck muscles. Prevent this by bringing your chin in towards your back.
In addition to the way you sit and stand, let’s not forget about text neck. Many people spend hours looking down at their cell phone or tablet and then wonder why their neck is so stiff! Take breaks from using your cell phone or tablet and try using a pillow or other device that puts your phone more at eye-level. Over time, the added stress on the ligaments and joints in the neck can led to premature degenerative issues.
Make your office as ergonomically friendly as possible. Move your monitor so it sits at eye level or use an adjustable desk. If you use a phone a great deal, invest in a headset or other type of hands-free device to avoid cradling the phone in the crook of your neck.
Most laptops require us to look down to see the keyboard and screen. Using an add-on keyboard that allows you to place the laptop higher will help or hook up the laptop to a larger, separate monitor that is more at eye level.
If you do filing or use copy machines or other types of office machines for long periods of time, try to avoid being hunched over or bending your neck down to look at what you are doing.
Let’s not forget those long office meetings. When in a meeting, try to avoid sitting where you will need to lean forward or twist your neck or upper body to see or hear someone. At least once an hour, ask for a 5-minute break. You can call it a restroom break if you like, but even if you don’t have to use the restroom, be sure to stretch your neck and shoulders.
Never carry a heavy bag, briefcase, or backpack on one shoulder. This uneven weight distribution strains the neck muscles.
If you have a desk job, take micro-breaks throughout your day. Move and stretch your neck and shoulder muscles. There are many simple exercises and stretching techniques that can be performed even in a cubicle.
Learn to recognize the signs of stress and find ways to remove unnecessary sources of stress in your life. For stress you cannot avoid, take steps so you learn to manage it. Stress relief is often found through meditation and yoga as well as chiropractic massage. Yoga is also an excellent way to stretch the muscles of the neck, back, and shoulders.
Smoking is known to increase the risk of developing chronic neck pain. Ask your chiropractor for advice on how you can quit smoking.
During long car rides or plane trips, it’s helpful to stretch your neck and shoulders. Even just sitting in your seat and moving your head side to side as well as up and down can prevent neck strain. Our bodies are not designed to sit for long periods without moving. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you to stretch every 30-60 minutes.
If you have ever watched Olympic weightlifters, you will notice they have large, powerful neck muscles that look ready to burst when they pick up the weights. If you carry heavy items regularly, speak with your chiropractor on how you can best pick up and carry these items to avoid both low back pain and neck pain from overuse or the strain this puts on the muscles in the neck.
While most people think chiropractors are only for those with back pain, the truth is that regular chiropractic care has a great deal to offer almost everyone. For those who experience neck pain, your chiropractor can help to prevent neck pain before it begins.
Many times, headaches come from tight muscles in the neck and/or stress. Regular chiropractic care can prevent many headaches, which should actually be called neck aches!
Your Wasilla chiropractor is full of good information and advice on how you can prevent neck pain for your unique situation. The same way you go to the dentist for regular checkup’s, x-rays, and cleaning to ensure you catch any problems before they become large, painful ones, your chiropractor can do the same.
Regular chiropractic check-ups or adjustments can keep your entire body functioning smoothly and maintain the proper balance it needs to function at its optimum.
Don’t forget about your pillow and mattress. Sleeping on your back allows the entire spine to relax, but most people avoid this because they snore if they are on their back. You can try adding a wedge pillow to your bed to see if this helps to prevent snoring.
Your pillow is also important. Neck pain is reduced for some people when they lie on their back with a very flat pillow. Side sleepers usually need a supportive pillow, so the neck is aligned with the spine.
If your pillow isn’t comfortable, then it isn’t working for you. Experiment with different types of pillows until you find one that works for you. If you can’t seem to find the right pillow for you, ask your chiropractor for advice in this area.
Dr. Brent Wells has been a trusted chiropractor since moving his family from Oregon to Alaska back in 1998 and founded Better Health Chiropractic & Physical Rehab – B.S. from Univ. of Nevada, Doctorate from Western States Chiropractic College, volunteer for Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Foundation, and member of the American Chiropractic Association. As a chiropractor his focus is on family, including his 3 children and wife of 20+ years, his clinics, and ongoing education.