Category Archives: Back to Basics
Most people do not realize how much they move their neck during the day until they are unable to do so.
The degree of flexibility of the neck, coupled with the fact that it has the least amount of muscular stabilization and it has to support and move your 14 – 16 pound head, means that the neck is very susceptible to injury. You can picture your neck and head much like a bowling ball being held on top of a stick by small, thin, elastic bands. It doesn’t take much force to disrupt that delicate balance.
The spinal cord runs through a space in the vertebrae to send nerve impulses to every part of the body. Between each pair of cervical vertebrae, the spinal cord sends off large bundles of nerves that run down the arms and to some degree, the upper back. This means that if your arm is hurting, it may actually be a problem in the neck!
Symptoms in the arms can include numbness, tingling, cold, aching, and “pins and needles”.
These symptoms can be confused with carpal tunnel syndrome. Problems in the neck can also contribute to headaches, muscle spasms in the shoulders and upper back, ringing in the ears, otitis media (inflammation in the middle ear, often mistaken for an ear infection in children), temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ), restricted range of motion and chronic tightness in the neck and upper back.
We associate the neck and upper back together, because most of the muscles that are associated with the neck either attach to, or are located in, the upper back. These muscles include the trapezius, the levator scapulae, the cervical paraspinal muscles and the scalenes, as well as others.
The Causes of Neck and Upper Back Pain
Most neck and upper back pain is caused by a combination of factors, including injury, poor posture, chiropractic subluxations, stress, and in some instances, disc problems.
By far, the most common injury to the neck is a whiplash injury.
Whiplash is caused by a sudden movement of the head, either backward, forward, or sideways, that results in the damage to the supporting muscles, ligaments and other connective tissues in the neck and upper back. Whether from a car accident, sports, or an accident at work, whiplash injuries need to be taken very seriously. Because symptoms of a whiplash injury can take weeks or months to manifest, it is easy to be fooled into thinking that you are not as injured as you really are. Too often people don’t seek treatment following a car accident or sports injury because they don’t feel hurt. Unfortunately, by the time more serious complications develop, some of the damage from the injury may have become permanent. Numerous studies have shown that years after whiplash victims settle their insurance claims, roughly half of them state that they still suffer with symptoms from their injuries. If you have been in a motor vehicle or any other kind of accident, don’t assume that you escaped injury if you are not currently in pain. Get checked out by a good chiropractor.
Almost half of all children will suffer from at least one middle ear infection (otitis media) before they’re a year old, and two-thirds of them will have had at least one episode by age three. The symptoms of otits media include ear pain, fever, and irritability.
Otitis media is caused by either a bacterial or viral infection and frequently results from another illness such as a cold. For many children, it can become a chronic problem, requiring treatment year after year, and putting the child at risk of permanent hearing damage and associated speech and developmental problems.
Otitis media commonly emerges when there is improper drainage of the lymph system in the neck, or when the muscle that is supposed to keep bacteria or viruses from entering the eustacean tubes (the tubes in the back of the throat that lead to the inner ear) doesn’t work correctly.
While both of these things can happen in adults, it usually does not result in an ear infection for two reasons: First, the shape and the length of the eustacean tubes are different in adults, allowing easier drainage and making it more difficult for a bacteria to invade. Second, adults tend to spend more time upright than young children do, which also encourages better drainage and decreases risk of infection.
In either case, the underlying root cause of otitis media is usually a mechanical problem. There is either a reduced or blocked drainage of the lymph vessels in the neck lymphatic chains that causes a build up of fluid in the inner ear, or a loss of normal function of the small muscle at the opening of the eustacean tube in the throat that allows bacteria and viruses from the mouth to enter the inner ear. Instead of treatment that tries to kill the bacteria or virus, a more natural approach would be to restore normal drainage of the ears and neck lymphatics. This is most effectively done through chiropractic.
Most people have heard about the common practice of placing ‘tubes in the ears’ to relieve the pressure, and therefore pain, of otitis media. During this surgical procedure, a small opening is made in the eardrum and a small tube is placed in the opening. This opening helps to relieve the pressure in the ear and prevents fluid buildup. After a couple of months, the body pushes the tube out and the hole closes. Although the treatment is often effective, it does not address the underlying cause of the infection, which is the abnormal mechanical functioning of the lymphatics, muscles and nerves.
If your child experiences recurrent ear infections, it is important that you talk to your chiropractor. By helping to restore the normal function of the tissues of the neck, otitis media can usually be significantly reduced or completely eliminated in most children, without the use of antibiotics and surgery.
Shoulder pain can have a number of different causes, ranging from an injury like a car accident, to a chronic problem like arthritis. Patients who experience shoulder pain may be surprised by the intensity and duration of the pain. The shoulder area is so essential for completing daily activities that it makes sense that the shoulder pain injury should be taken seriously and treated to avoid worsening your condition.
Some signs that shoulder pain needs immediate attention may include a decreased ability to hold objects, decreased functioning of the arm, shoulder pain that persists even while at rest, shoulder pain that lasts more than a day or two, and unusual twinges or aches in the shoulder area.
Chiropractic care can be an extremely effective treatment for shoulder pain regardless of its cause. A chiropractor will often begin with an examination of the patient’s neck area since shoulder pain can frequently be the result of “referred” pain from the neck. Whether the shoulder pain is connected to the neck or is limited to the lower part of the shoulder, it can generally be treated with non-invasive methods of natural healing such as chiropractic care.
Allergies are often treated with chiropractic care. Many allergic and asthmatic reactions are caused by hypersensitivity of the immune system and/or respiratory system.
Researchers have found that the immune and respiratory systems depend on normal communication from the brain and spinal cord to control and coordinate their functions properly.
Therefore, if your neck is misaligned, it could cause an imbalance in your nervous system function. This upper cervical spinal joint irritation could possibly produce or exaggerate asthmatic and allergic symptoms. For example; many asthma and allergy sufferers experienced traumas such as head injuries, auto accidents, or falls which could have injured their upper cervical spines. The good news is that we can perform an upper cervical examination to determine if chiropractic care can reduce your allergic and asthmatic reactions.
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) is a relatively common condition that tends to emerge in children during their early school years. The most common signs of ADHD are:
* Impulsive Behavior
* Difficulty Concentrating
It is estimated that between 3 and 5 percent of children have ADHD – approximately 2 million children in the United States – and is much more common in boys than girls. This means that in a classroom of 25 to 30 children, it is likely that at least one will have ADHD. However, because many unaffected children may show some of these same behaviors as well, it is important that a child receive a thorough examination and appropriate diagnosis before any treatment is considered.
It is not entirely certain what causes ADHD, but the current thought is that it is a combination of an overactive nervous system, coupled with a decrease in the brain’s ability to filter out extraneous sights, sounds, thoughts and emotions. Although chiropractors don’t directly treat ADHD, there are a number of things that your chiropractor can do to help eliminate things that stress a child’s nervous system, such as:
* Remove spinal subluxations that irritate the nervous system
* Suggest dietary changes to avoid common problem foods
* Test for allergies that may be stressing the nervous system
* Suggest changes to the home to help reduce exposure to toxic chemicals
The most common medical treatment is the use of the drug methylphenidate, also known as Ritalin. Ritalin is actually a stimulant drug that normally speeds up the activity of the nervous system. But for reasons that are not entirely clear, it tends to have a calming effect on those who suffer from ADHD; possibly by increasing the activity in the area of the brain responsible for filtering out extraneous sensation.The problem with taking Ritalin is that it does not do anything to resolve the cause of the ADHD, it only masks the symptoms. Continued use of Ritalin over long periods of time has also been shown to have detrimental effects on the brain itself. It is important as a parent to look at all treatment options before placing your child on Ritalin and chiropractic care is a great place to start.