Treatment For Neck Pain in Cardiff
A dull ache, stiff, sharp, radiating to the shoulder, sharp, throbbing, pulsing, a crick in the neck? I’m sure if you are reading this then at some point in your life you have had neck pain. You may have it know which is why you are reading this. A US study showed that 80% of people have neck pain at some point in their lives. Let's be honest it is a burden that no one wants. “Men have a higher percentage of disc problems (40%) than women (28%) in cases of neck pain in individuals aged 55-64”. Because it is such a burden it costs the United States $88 billion a year on lower back pain and neck pain combined. So now we know why neck pain is such an issue, shall we see what can cause all of this suffering?
What causes neck pain?
A fall, sleeping awkwardly, a physical alteration, a jolt from that car behind you, sitting for too long, working out too much, lack of movement, depression, and anxiety, stress, poor diet, and spinal deformities are among the main reasons for neck pain. In most cases, neck pain is a very treatable issue here in Cardiff. A full examination of the nerves, muscles, and joints give us a good indication of what structures are causing pain and helps us to decide what the best treatment would be going forward. The following is a break down of the structural and emotional causes of neck pain.
Osteoarthritis (OA): It’s normal! When I tell my patients who come in following an x-ray and a diagnosis of osteoarthritis they are both shocked and slightly more relaxed. I think people associate OA with doom and gloom, an added realization is that they are getting older and breaking down. What do you think that does? Well, they feel fragile and vulnerable because of it. They may start moving less because they feel less capable or worried about causing more pain. It’s a vicious cycle that can lead to misery. Part of our job is, to be honest with a patient to what is the likely outcome of their neck pain. The good news is receiving a diagnosis of OA is the same as being diagnosed with grey hairs and wrinkles. It’s just something that happens to our joints as we get older. And this process takes a long time. It does not happen overnight. They may have been told that their bones are crumbling and this is not true either. As the joints age, they become more rounded not jagged. There is a condition called osteoporosis which is a thinning of the bones which are more susceptible to fractures but they do not crumble. Medication is also effective at treating this issue (sorry ladies this is more common in women). So before you decide to hang the towel up, please reconsider and look at the evidence.
Cervical disc herniation: Within each spinal vertebra of the spine lies an intervertebral disc. They can be prone to injury-causing nerve compression and radicular pain (pain that travels down the arm). In moderate to severe cases, it can cause arm weakness and muscle wasting. Age and trauma are often the causes of a disc herniation. Patients often report more pain in the top of the arm and shoulder rather than the neck. As the disc heals they tend to feel more neck pain. Simple tests can diagnose these issues without imaging. If patients have had a fever, feel unwell, having leg symptoms or having difficulty in swallowing then an immediate referral is written for the patient to give to their GP or A&E in some cases. This is quite rare but shows the importance of finding out all of the symptoms before we even think about doing an examination. Often we can tell what is wrong just by what the patient tells us. Chiropractic can treat most cervical disc herniations safely and effectively.
Cervical spondylosis, radiculopathy, and myelopathy: Why do names have to sound so complicated? I guess it’s science and these words become second nature to the people who use them every day. You could also understand these words if you spoke to another doctor in a different tongue.
Cervical spondylolysis (a bone growth) is another term for the degeneration of the spinal joints as well as the discs and surrounding ligamentous structures. It can create stiffness and can create pain in some people. In more advanced cases, spondylosis can cause instability. One of the clever ways the musculoskeletal system stabilizes the spine is with the growth of osteophytes. As the spaces narrow between the vertebral joints these osteophytes act as packing and wedges to stop complete closure of the joints. The problem, on the other hand, is that it can create fusion within the joints causing more stiffness.
Radicular pain occurs when there is nerve compression, either from a disc herniation or the degeneration of the joint structures. The branches of the spinal cord can become trapped or compressed causing shoulder, arm and wrist discomfort as well as pins and needles.
A worst-case scenario is a cervical myelopathy. Cervical myelopathy is where bone or in rare cases a tumor, encroaches into the spinal canal putting pressure on the spinal cord itself. Many of the nerve bundles that travel through the spinal canal from the brain stem can be affected. Signs and symptoms of cervical myelopathy are the weakness of the legs, clumsiness such as dropping things like a cup and problems going to the toilet (emptying). Suspected cervical myelopathy needs a referral for MRI and is good practice to have blood tests also.
Degenerative disc disease (DDD) & Degenerative joint disease (DJD): What we have described above applies to these diagnoses. All be it less severe. These are perfectly normal findings that happen with age as the joints get older. Exercise therapy is an effective tool for pain relief, along with manual treatment and pain education.
Whiplash: The name sounds rather terrifying. For good reason as to get whiplash trauma is the main cause. Whiplash is very common in road traffic accidents (RTA’s). If a car hits you with enough force from behind then the neck and skull are first suddenly flung backward and stopped suddenly again as the head goes forward. A technical term for whiplash is "Cervical acceleration-deceleration" (CAD). Other common causes for whiplash are bungee jumping and headbanging. Much of the pain comes from the sudden and over-stretching of the neck ligaments and muscles. The spinal facet joints are surrounded by dense capsules of fibrous connective tissue that can become overstretched and be pain-sensitive. Symptoms of whiplash are neck pain, shoulder pain, and pain between the shoulder blades. It’s common to have pins and needles of the hand and or feet. Headaches can be very bothersome along with irritability. Pain can come on straight away or more commonly 48 hours later. I have had patients not feel the pain until a few weeks later. It is well known that the severity of an injury takes 72 hours to show it’s true trauma. Whiplash can be short-lived but can also leave sufferers with long term pain. Chiropractic is an effective treatment for whiplash here in our Cardiff clinic.
Cervical dystonia: This is not an issue I see every day, yet I find it one of the most interesting. Cervical dystonia may also be called torticollis interchangeably. It is the involuntary contracture of one or more of the neck muscles. Imagine trying to look straight ahead but your own muscles are overpowering you, rotating your head in the direction of the contracture. There are grading severities from a mild tug to a severe spasm. This condition can really change people's lives. Some may get pain and some may be pain-free. The spasm may come and go but can also last for many years. It can take up to 5 years to feel the full extent of dystonia. The cause is not fully understood. Stress may be a key factor in dystonia but brain scientists have also found a link with a part of the brain called the basal ganglia. The basal ganglia is an important part of the brain involved with emotional and movement processes. The treatment has had varying results. By releasing muscle tension patient will get some relief. Unfortunately, it can be short-lived. Many patients take pain relief and in some cases, Botox injections have some success. There can be a heavy psychological impact on the condition due to people feeling self-conscious about these involuntary movements. Most cases of dystonia are benign (not a serious cause for concern), in rare cases, a tumor may be the cause.
Facet dysfunction: A terminology to describe the stiffness and pain of the facet joints of the spine.
Spondylolisthesis: Less common in the cervical spine than the lumbar spine. The slipping or the malalignment of the cervical joints in relation to one another. They can be symptomatic and asymptomatic. Some will need surgery after trauma.
Serious but rare causes of neck pain are tumors, infection such as meningitis (extreme stiff neck) and spinal fractures.
What are the symptoms of neck pain?
The Symptoms of neck pain vary from person to person, the following outline the wide array of signs and symptoms.
Sharp or dull pain.
Pain referring from the neck to the shoulder, arm, wrist, and hand(s).
Pain with movement(s). bending forward can increase current radicular pain.
Headaches, can cause eye pain, jaw pain, throbbing sensations, and a tight feeling in the skull.
Difficulty drinking and swallowing with cervical myelopathy.
Stiffness and crepitus (the sound of clicking and or grinding in the neck)
What is the difference between acute and chronic neck pain?
I have touched on this topic a few times. To find out an in-depth explanation, please click here
How can chiropractic help neck pain?
Neck pain is generally easier to treat than lower back pain. If you think the lower back has a lot more weight to deal with compared to the cervical spine, the neck joints seem more responsive to treatment. That being said the neck and its structures can be more pain-sensitive. There are more nerve receptors around the neck than the lumbar spine. Imagine if you will, a feather brushing your lower back, now imagine that feather brushing your neck. You would be more sensitive to the feather brushing your neck, right?. We first want to know why neck pain started in the first place. The majority of cases are simple mechanical issues that are easy to rectify by increasing movement of the joints, muscles, and tendons. I audited Corbin Chiropractic last year to see who is my biggest demographic for neck pain. As it turns out it is office workers in their early 30’s. You may of heard that sitting is the new smoking but personally, I think it is a bit of scaremongering by the newspapers who are renowned for catastrophizing information. I do believe we sit for too long a period at a time. I myself have binge-watch a Netflix series and felt very tired with an achy neck in tow. Motion is lotion, our body is designed to move so our job is to help you with that. A spinal manipulation is a wonderful tool for freeing up the joint tension, it is very relaxing and very pain relieving. Acupuncture is my number one for muscle tightness. I use acupuncture to trick the brain to reduce muscle tension. This also adds to the pain relief. I will use different stretching techniques and distraction techniques to fee up more tension. In certain cases spinal manipulation is not suitable. We still have plenty of more gentle and safer techniques depending on the person. Home exercises are essential and especially for those who work in an office and are sitting at a desk all day. Treatment is very safe and patients report quicker results than they do with back pain.
How long will it take for my neck pain to feel better?
Most people get the results they are looking for in 2-3 treatments. Long-standing pain takes longer and may take 4-7 treatments. Some cases may need regular treatment to keep pain levels at a manageable level. Some patient decides to leave treatment after one session where they have not had immediate relief. It is always worth sticking out the treatment plan. Some people may not get pain relief until the 3rd session. When they see results then the road gets much easier.
How much will it cost to treat my neck pain?
We are not the most expensive, neither the cheapest. We invest a lot into Corbin chiropractic so our prices reflect this. Click here to see our fee schedule.
How can I make an appointment for my neck pain?
We have multiple ways to book. Send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Book online here.
The above picture shows the relevant anatomy of the upper back and cervical spine
The above picture shows an arthritic spine and "normal MRI of the cervical spine.
The above picture shows the fusion of cervical vertebra. Also known as spondylosis.
The above image shows the acceleration-deceleration (CAD) mechanism of whiplash
The above image shows the contracture of a neck muscle causing cervical dystonia, AKA torticollis