If you are suffering from neck pain, the first step is to get an accurate and definitive diagnosis from a qualified doctor. Most cases of neck pain involve tight muscles and inflammation in the joints or around the nerve root. Some cases of neck pain are from arthritic bone spurs or a herniated disc. Depending on the cause of the pain and other factors, a specific treatment plan can be assembled by your doctor.
The remaining article lists out natural and drug free treatment options. It is the belief of the doctors at Frisco Spinal Rehab that your first choice in treatment should be a conservative approach that focuses on treating the true cause of your pain as opposed to only masking the symptoms.
Ergonomics and Posture
Improving your ergonomics and posture are good starting points. Look at the activities you perform the most and evaluate your posture during these activities and how you can reduce stress on your body. There are several great websites for improving your ergonomic setup at work. Just Google “Ergonomic Setup” and you can find what you need. Sit and stand with good posture – shoulders back and head centered over the shoulders.
Emotional stress is a big factor in many cases of neck pain. The single best way to counter emotional stress is cardiovascular exercise. Any activity that increases your heart rate to an appropriate level for your age for an extended period will help force blood flow through the small capillaries in the tight muscles. A good example for a 35 year old healthy female would be to walk fast enough to get the heart rate up to 130 beats/minute for 20-30 minutes. This will help relax the mind and drive oxygen into the tight muscles. It is important to perform cardiovascular exercise at a minimum of 3/week.
Most of the time neck pain tied in with tight and restricted joints. Restoring motion into these joints is an important step to allowing your body to heal itself. The joints in the body are dependent upon motion to keep them healthy and any restriction can lead to inflammation and pain. Lost motion for an extended period can lead to degenerative joint disease. The chiropractors at Frisco Spinal Rehabilitation use all sorts of different methods to restore proper joint motion. Joint mobilization, manual chiropractic adjustments as well as instrument chiropractic adjustments are all used with great success.
Recent studies have shown the importance of a particular exercise known as chin retraction exercises or chin tucks. The concept is to keep the chin tucked down while pushing the head back as far as comfortable possible. Performing this exercise with resistance may be even better. This exercise strengthens the deep neck flexors which are very important to the stability of the cervical spine. Other exercises include isometric neck exercises forward, backwards and side to side. This involves pushing and activating the muscles but not actually moving the head. It can be done with an exercise ball as resistance or with your own hand as resistance.
Traditional stretching of the trapezius, levator scapulae, SCM, scalene and pectoralis muscles is not as important as the above exercises but has some benefit as well. A different type of stretching known as proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation or PNF can be helpful but requires a partner.
Various Types of Massage
Many types of neck pain involve tight or spastic muscles as well as the formation of scar tissue or fibrotic tissue from some sort of injury. Depending on the type of muscular problem, different techniques are used. Trigger point massage focuses on finding tight and painful knots and applying pressure right over them. The pressure is called ischmic compression and initially reduces blood flow and forces metabolic waste out of the area. When the pressure is taken away, blood flow rushing into the tissue and cleans up residual metabolic waste.
Myofascial release focuses on breaking up adhesions in the fascial layer or scar tissue. The treatment involves putting pressure on a muscle as you take it from a short to long position. Active release technique follows this same line of thinking. Gua Sha is a technique that involves applying repetitive strokes that lead to some slight bruising to evoke an immune response. The concept is to create some petechia or superficial bruising which causes big white blood cells called macrophages to come in and gobble up inflammatory chemicals and promote healing. The Graston technique follows a similar line of thinking.
Various Types of Traction
Over the years we have heard some interesting stories from our patients. One lady described how her dad would tell the family every night after dinner that he was going to the basement to hang himself. Well it sounded disturbing, what he was actually doing was called over the door traction. It involved a harness, rope, pulley and weight to pull on the neck. This can be purchased for less than $20 in most drug stores.
Other types of traction include foam devices that you rest your head over called fulcrum traction. A device called a posture pump helps to stretch and elongate the neck as well as re-establishing the cervical curve in the neck. A fancy form a traction known as spinal decompression involves a computer pulling a various weights on the head to open up the neck and reduce pain. All types of traction are offered at Frisco Spinal Rehab depending on the underlying problem.
Acupuncture has a good history of resolving many types of neck pain. The use of acupuncture is not limited to needles. Acupressure, cupping, herbs and mind/body exercises are part of the history of this method. Acupuncture can help break the neurological pain cycle as well as causing an increase in endorphins and encephalin in the blood stream which are the body’s natural pain killers.
A common adjust to other treatments is the use of cold laser therapy, ultrasound and various types of electrical stimulation. Electrical therapies come in many types such as micro current, low voltage, high voltage, interferential, Russian stimulation and TENS with each serving a specific function.
Kinesiotaping may help promote circulation and reduce congestion in the lymphatic flow in the neck. Diathermy and infrared heat can be used for the same purpose as well as hot and cold packs.
Other options include supportive pillows and topical creams such as Biofreeze and Relief. Most of these creams contain varying levels of menthol and camphor. They can provide short term relief. Supplement such as Omega 3 fish oils and magnesium can help with neck pain. Herbs such as Valerian root and turmeric may help as well.
Frisco Spinal Rehabilitation
The chiropractors in our clinic are here to help you however they can. If you are in need of a definitive diagnosis for your neck pain or need help deciding what your best treatment options are, call today. Our clinic is in Frisco, TX and has chiropractors and massage therapists ready to serve your needs.