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What’s behind your neck pain?

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Neck pain: the origin

Figure 1. C1 and your cervical curve. Every nerve in your body has to pass through this door. Problems here can cause far-reaching effects, from thyroid problems to low back pain. All spinal examinations should start with the neck.

Getting the neck in good alignment – it’s a clear passage for the nerves passing from the brain to the body – should be your main goal. From lack of coordination to insomnia, brain fog to fatigue, and from impaired metabolism (thyroid function) to increased emotional stress, an unhealthy neck detracts from anyone’s quality of life(1).

Research shows that the position of the upper bone (atlas) can affect your blood pressure(2) and that neck degeneration is linked to abnormal heartbeats, called “arrhythmia”(3). Some research even links neck health to longevity. Some chiropractors devote their entire careers to adjusting nothing but neck subluxations. Let’s look at why.

Start your path to a pain-free life now

It would be easy to assume that neck problems cause neck pain. But, unfortunately, the problem is much bigger than that. The truth is that an unhealthy neck can cause a wide variety of symptoms and ill health. In many of them, it is not obvious that the neck is the cause.

The marvel of engineering

The seven bones in your neck are an engineering marvel. The top two bones, called the atlas and axis, have a special relationship and sit in a critical place. Here, the lower part of your brain, the brainstem, extends to the top of your neck. Keep in mind that your brain stem controls vital functions such as breathing and heart rate. The rest of the vertebrae have a soft disc between each one. The purpose of the discs is simply to make room for the nerves that exit at each level. Think for a moment about what you are asking your neck to do for you right now.

Support the weight of your head (about 5 kg!).

Support the weight of your shoulders and arms, which hang from your neck. When you lift a weight, so does your neck.

Contain and protect the blood supply and the fluid supply (CSF) to your brain. We will talk about CSF later in this chapter.

It carries every nerve and its signals from your brain to your body.

And to be able to keep moving freely and even when you look over both shoulders!

No wonder injuries in this area can affect every part of your health and ruin your enjoyment of life.

The key to a life withou neck pain: a healthy curve and alignment of C1

The curve of your neck

This may be the most important, yet overlooked, part of neck health. It baffles me when I see medical radiologists comment on “loss of neck lordosis” if the medical system currently has no solution for this problem. It is stated as a problem, as if it is a life sentence with no hope of recovery.

Your neck should not be straight. Depending on the angle of your upper back (T1), your neck should have a nice, relaxed curve of approximately 40 degrees(4). This allows the spinal cord to relax without pressure and the fluid supplying your brain (CSF) to flow freely. It also means that the weight of your head is equally distributed between the discs and facet joints. Too much curve increases wear and tear and degeneration of the joints. Too little curve increases disc loading, wear and degeneration.

Figure 2. Cervical curve. Your neck is designed to have a deep, relaxed curve. Loss of this curve changes the loads on small bones and joints, triggering problems that can cause multiple health problems.

Your head should also be directly above your shoulders. Tilting it forward a little increases the pressure on your neck and nerves enormously, leading to loss of curve and long-term problems. Think of all the time you spend looking at your mobile phone and imagine how those thousands of hours will affect the curve of your neck and ultimately your health. The resulting subluxations lead to premature degeneration. Yes, a loss of neck curve, in particular, an inversion of the curve will lead to premature degeneration of discs and herniated discs. And your neck is not a good place for degeneration.

Believe me, I know from experience. A youth full of rugby and contact sports, followed by too much weightlifting, means my own neck is living on “borrowed time”. Degeneration levels mean that there simply isn’t as much room for all the nerves anymore. So what do I do? I get regular chiropractic adjustments from my chiropractor, take care of my alignment (more on that later) and make sure I don’t overload it. I know what I have done and I know I will pay the price for my “faults”, but the sad truth is that most people with this problem go around thinking that their headaches or neck pains are normal. They are going to be surprised when they end up getting the bill.

“Visible” symptoms of an unhealthy neck

It would be easy to assume that neck problems cause neck pain. But, unfortunately, the problem is much bigger than that. The truth is that an unhealthy neck can cause a wide variety of symptoms and ill health. In many of them, it is not obvious that the neck is the cause.

Here are some of the problems caused by an unhealthy neck:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness and dizziness
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome
  • Tennis elbow, golfer’s elbow
  • Frozen shoulder / stiff shoulder
  • Spondylosis or neck degeneration
  • Herniated disc

I strongly recommend that everyone, with or without symptoms, should have regular check-ups to detect vertebral subluxations, and if found, decrease/eliminate them with chiropractic adjustments which means that these changes should become lifelong improvements.

Compare this to other manual therapy methods, such as manipulation, physiotherapy and massage, which show slight but temporary objective improvements after care, and almost all the benefit is lost a year later, and you will realise why it is such a popular technique in the USA and other developed countries.

If you follow these protocols, you should get results. But it may require some patience and commitment.

Give us a call or write to us in the comments section if you want to understand the state of your neck and get a solution without involving surgeries or drugs, we’ll be happy to help.

References:

  1. Health and cervical lordosis (2008) Practicing Chiropractors’ Committee on Radiology Protocols. http://www.pccrp.org/ P181
  2. Bakris G, Dickholtz M Sr, Meyer PM, Kravitz G, Avery E, Miller M, Brown J, Woodfield C, Bell B. (2007) Atlas vertebra realignment and achievement of arterial pressure goal in hypertensive patients: a pilot study. J Hum Hypertens. 21(5):347-52. doi: 10.1038/sj.jhh.1002133
  3. Lin, S. Y., Hsu, W. H., Lin, C. C., Lin, C. L., Tsai, C. H., Lin, C. H., Chen, D. C., Lin, T. C., Hsu, C. Y., & Kao, C. H. (2018). Association of Arrhythmia in Patients with Cervical Spondylosis: A Nationwide Population-Based Cohort Study. Journal of clinical medicine, 7(9), 236. https://doi. org/10.3390/jcm7090236
  4.  Harrison, D. E., Harrison, D. D., & Hass, J. W. (2002). CBP® structural

Dr. Glenn Duffy is a Chiropractor that lives in Marbella. Glenn is regularly called on to discuss health topics and chiropractic on radio, tv and press. His promise is to adjust and educate as many families as possible towards optimal health. His work changes lives and has restored people’s quality of life.

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