Your cervical spine supports your head, facilitates its movements and houses your spinal cord. It is surrounded with a complex network of muscles, ligaments and tendons with blood vessels and nerves around and in between them.
Neck pain may be associated with issues in any of the soft and hard tissues of the cervical spine. The most common sources of neck pain include, but are not limited to:
- Excessive muscle tension from poor ergonomics and postural imbalance,
- Straightening or reversal of the normal curvature of the cervical spine with or without the associated osteoarthritis and degeneration of the facet joint cartilage,
- Narrowing of the spinal canal, disc bulging and/or herniations and degenerative joint(s), which can cause pain to radiate into the extremities,
- Nutritional deficiencies or excess that negatively affect normal functioning of the soft tissues in the neck,
- And, any past traumas that were not fully resolved and corrected.
An acute episode of neck pain may be due to spraining of the muscles, ligaments, or tendons in the cervical area. Injuries such as those sustained in a motor vehicle accident, overuse of shoulders and arms and awkward sleeping positions are often the causes. Most minor injuries in the neck can be alleviated with proper care such as conservative rest, ice therapy, and later, heat application, as well as receiving chiropractic care and physical therapy to rehabilitate the spine.
Most chronic neck pain are due to the sustained abnormal loading and function of the cervical spine, which lead to degenerative changes in the joints, disc herniations and pinching of nerves with pain that not only radiates down the arm, hands and fingers, but may also be accompanied by numbness or tingling.
Headaches and migraines are experienced by many Americans. They can be mild and intermittent or occur as episodes of throbbing, agonizing pain with sensitivity to sounds and light. Although commonly the source of such headaches are associated with particular foods, overstimulation of senses, blood sugar fluctuations and excessive physical exertions, there may be functional issue with the cervical spine that precipitate headaches. Heavy metal toxicities may also be responsible for some of these headaches.
Most people may resort to over the counter medications and prescription drugs, rest and sleep, and ice or heat packs on the forehead or neck, however, long lasting relief and cessation requires finding the source of the headaches experienced.
There are some recent studies that have demonstrated the efficacy of chiropractic intervention in managing headaches. Better yet, these studies have also shown that patients suffering from chronic headaches and migraines may benefit more from long-term chiropractic care than drug therapy alone. Chiropractic spinal manipulation has been shown to be quite effective for headaches that are associated with the issues in the cervical spine. A 2001 Duke University study, for example, demonstrated that spinal manipulation provided relief for patients with headaches of the cervical origin.