The onset of pain experienced in the upper back, neck, shoulders, and arms is often related to problems with the cervical spine. In these specific regions of the body, trauma or damage to tendons, muscles, fascia, nerves, joints, ligaments, or discs can lead to a cervical spine condition that causes symptoms such as chronic pain, stiffness, and numbness. Treatment of the underlying condition is generally performed by a licensed chiropractor by using spinal manipulation and adjunctive techniques that alleviate pain, and allow the body to heal and recover on its own.
Through chiropractic manipulation, patients with cervical spine conditions receive a combination of benefits including increased range of motion, pain relief, and improved functioning between the neck and head. However, before the patient can receive this type of treatment, a thorough chiropractic examination must be carried out, among other tests and analysis to ensure the right course of action is taken throughout the treatment and recovery period. It should also be noted that the type of chiropractic manipulation provided will vary from patient to patient, depending on their condition, present health status, and other factors.
Cervical Spinal Manipulation vs Cervical Spinal Mobilisation
To treat cervical spine conditions, there are two umbrella approaches of chiropractic treatment that doctors and physicians apply. The patient’s level of tolerance and comfort are taken into consideration at the time of choosing an appropriate approach to treatment which is typically inclusive of various other chiropractic techniques/adjustments and alternative care.
The difference between cervical spinal mobilisation and cervical spinal manipulation is as follows:
Cervical Spinal Mobilisation: Involves manual movement of the joints without forcing a range of motion that causes the patient pain. It is a gentler approach with low-velocity adjustments and is best suited for patients with chronic pain or those who cannot bear intense or high-velocity adjustments.
Cervical Spinal Manipulation: This is the most common chiropractic technique, however, due to high-velocity manipulation, it is only applied when suitable for the patient and the patient’s condition.
Types of Cervical Spine Conditions
There are several conditions or underlying causes of pain in the neck, upper back, and shoulders/arms that can be treated with spinal manipulation. If you are suffering from a cervical spine problem, take a look at these common conditions chiropractors address with chiropractic manipulation.
Cervical Disc Problems
Pinched or irritated nerve roots cause radiating-like pain in the arm that reaches the patient’s palm and specific regions of the hand. Cervical disc tears are also common and lead to chronic pain if not addressed in a timely manner.
Though rare, cervical disc problems can cause the spinal cord to become compressed which comes with its onset of symptoms. Some of these include interference in the functioning of the bladder and bowels, pain in the upper back and neck, and numbness in the legs.
Mechanical Neck Pain
There are several contributors to mechanical neck pain which include problems with joint capsules, tendons, and muscles. Stiffness is also an accompanying symptom with this particular cervical spine condition while the actual pain can range from mild to chronic.
It is not always easy to pinpoint what tissue has been damaged or injured as mechanical neck pain can occur in the affected area, or in another region which is known as ‘referred pain’. Nevertheless, chiropractors are trained to track down the root cause of the pain with a thorough examination and subsequent chiropractic care methods.
Cervical Spine Dysfunction
Pain in the neck limits the functioning and range of motion between the head and neck – a disorder that is often related to facet joint problems. Patients with cervical spine dysfunction may complain of a dull ache in the neck region which, if left untreated, may cause painful muscle spasm in the upper back that radiates up the neck.
Along with spinal manipulation, your chiropractor may also suggest alternative treatments to get rid of the pain and restore your natural range of motion. Physical therapy is one such approach that is safe and effective in treating cervical spine dysfunction (under the guidance of a physiotherapist). Basic exercises and light stretches are generally advised in the beginning before your muscles grow stronger and are able to tolerate a slightly more rigorous routine.
For quick, though temporary, relief from mechanical neck pain, hot/cold compressions help. Heat/ice must be applied for at least 15-20 minutes every day, as many times as you can (the more often you do it daily, the more effective the treatment is).
In conclusion, there are various disorders related to the cervical spine, many of which can be avoided with minimal exercise and stretching to maintain your range of motion, and build muscle. At MSK Therapy, we offer customised rehabilitation programs, personalised chiropractic treatments, and physical and injury management services to address a wide range of conditions including cervical spine problems.