Dealing with neck pain can be such a pain-in-the-neck!

Have you ever heard of something referred to as a “pain in the neck”? There’s a reason that phrase is such a derogatory statement! Neck pain is a nuisance. It’s annoying. It makes simple daily tasks difficult. And in some cases, it can be downright debilitating. If you have ever experienced neck pain…you know what a pain-in-the-neck it can be!

What causes neck pain?

There are many internal and external factors that may play a role in an individual’s neck pain.

Whiplash from a car accident or neck strain from sports-related injuries are common conditions we treat at Champion Wellness. For the purposes of this education, however, we will focus on preventable neck pain related to poor posture.

Text Neck, Tech Neck, Student Posture, Forward Head Posture

These terms are all used interchangeably to refer to what moms across the world have scolded us about since our childhood: our poor posture.

I bet you just sat up a little straighter as you read that. The surge of digital devices such as smartphones and computers have perpetuated forward head posture, but it is not a new issue. Before digital media, there were books (made of paper!) to slouch over. And throughout the ages, there have been many laborious tasks (such as cleaning and cooking) requiring a forward hinged position leading to forward head posture.

Forward head posture (FHP) is a forward translation of the head, hence the name. Since the head is held forward, the neck must support additional weight. Think of a bowling ball. If you hold it near your chest at your center of gravity, it is a tolerable weight. If you extend your arms with that 10 pound ball straight out in front of you…well let’s just say that you would not want to do that for an 8 hour work day. Thus, along with FHP comes a domino effect of dysfunction at the levels of cervical joint, muscle, and/or discs.

Forward head posture affects the joints, muscles, and discs of the neck.

Neck pain treatment

Cervical Joint Dysfunction.

The lower cervical vertebra drive forward and in order to look straight ahead, the upper cervical vertebra will hyperextend. Since 50% of flexion, extension, and rotation of the neck occurs at the upper cervical spine, this hyperextension will seriously limit mobility.
Neck strength

Cervical Muscle Dysfunction.

Over time, an imbalance of muscle tone is created as the body tries to compensate. The extension muscles of the back of the lower neck (erector spinae) and the deep cervical flexors (longus captious and longus colli) become elongated and weak. The small upper cervical muscles of extension and rotation (suboccipitals) and the shoulder blade lifting muscles (levator scapulae) become short and tight.
Neck pain care

Cervical Disc Dysfunction.

Intervertebral discs serve as a cushion for all the loading forces of daily activities. FHP changes the dynamic of cervical motion and can subject discs to increased pressure as well as additional shearing forces. Studies have shown these, coupled with repetitive motions, may lead to degenerative changes.

But that is just the beginning!

In addition to the dysfunctional changes at the level of the cervical spine, there are stressors on the upper back, shoulders, and chest. The gift that keeps on giving!
Neck posture

Upper Back Dysfunction.

As the body tries to adapt to a forward translated head, the shoulders may roll forward and the upper back may develop a rounded appearance. We call this rounding an increased kyphosis. Like other hazards associated with FHP, increased thoracic kyphosis can be prevented or treated with conservative care.
Neck and shoulder pain

Shoulder Dysfunction.

Forward head and round-shoulder posture puts undue stress on all of the muscles and joints of the shoulder complex. This can decrease range of motion of the arm and shoulder and repetitive shoulder tasks in this already compromised position could lead to degenerative changes or tears of the shoulder.
Neck pain treatment

Breathing Dysfunction.

The cervical muscle imbalances of FHP are generally coupled with shortened, tight pectoral muscles. Tight pecs and forward rolled shoulders result in altered shapes of the upper and lower chest. A study showed that these altered shapes result in lower inspiration and expiration volumes of air when compared to a neutral head position.
TMJ pain

TMJ Disorder.

There are many studies that link FHP to temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ) symptoms. There are imbalances of the muscles involved with chewing as well as biomechanical alterations.
Cervical radiculopathy arm tingling

Arm Numbness.

Numbness, tingling, or pain into the arms and hands can be a sign of a more serious condition called cervical radiculopathy. However, many with FHP have these symptoms as a result of significant muscle imbalances. It is important to have a comprehensive exam to distinguish the difference.

Forward head posture is a significant contributor to neck pain for many individuals.

And, unfortunately it can also result in headaches, shoulder pain, upper back pain, and radiculopathy into the arms. The symptoms may resolve with rest or over-the-counter medications, but if you do not address the underlying issue recurrent problems may arise. 

At Champion Wellness we evaluate patients from a ‘whole person’ perspective and develop treatment plans on an individual basis.

Treatment may include:

    • Chiropractic manipulation. We use a variety of techniques ranging from manual manipulation to gentle activator.
    • Muscle or fascial release. Massage, cupping, stretching, and instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization are great ways to release fascia and loosen muscles to help the body heal.
    • Strengthening. When there are muscle imbalances, it is just as important to strengthen the elongated weak muscles as it is to stretch the tight ones.
    • Lifestyle recommendations. Proper sleep habits, nutrition, desk ergonomics, and posture are just a few of the many topics we can discuss at your next visit.
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