Neck Pain Treatment: A Philadelphia, PA Chiropractor’s Perspective

neck pain philadelphia pa

Neck pain is one of the most common conditions we see in our six Philadelphia chiropractic practice locations. Not only is it one of the most common problems patients present with, but it’s also one of the biggest disrupters to your daily routine.  

According to the National Institute of Health Statistics national survey, neck pain is the second most common form of pain in the United States (following back pain and tied with headaches and migraines). An estimated three-quarters of Americans will be affected by neck pain at some point in their lifetime.

As experts in the musculoskeletal system, chiropractors are the ideal healthcare providers to treat problems associated with the neck. 

The neck makes up the part of the spine referred to as the “cervical spine.” This curved portion of the spine consists of the first seven vertebrae, starting from the base of your skull at the C1 (atlas) vertebrae and ending at your thoracic spine. One of the three curves in your spine, the cervical curve is critical to overall spinal health. Any reduction or misalignment in this area of the body can cause pain, headaches, migraines, stiffness, and more. It’s important to note that it may take years for pain or other issues to surface, which is why it’s critical to get regularly checked in order to prevent or delay potential health issues.

Acute and chronic neck pain is a very common reason patients seek chiropractic care with us. Acute neck pain usually happens right after a trauma like a car accident, a sports injury, or even a fall. Research shows that the sooner you treat your acute injuries the quicker and better your results will be including pain relief. In addition, treating an acute neck injury as soon as possible can lessen your chances of it turning into a chronic neck problem. If a problem exists in your neck for more than 3 months it’s no longer an acute injury. It now falls into the chronic category. The longer the problem persists in your neck the more difficult it can be to treat. 

The neck is a very complex region of the spine. Just like other regions of the spine, the neck contains joints, muscles, tendons, and ligaments as well as discs. Each of these structures when damaged can cause different kinds of pain. It is vital that we understand your unique problem so we can reduce or eliminate your pain but more importantly, so we can fix it.

At PA Pain & Rehab we take a multi-disciplinary approach when it comes to neck pain.  Thus, it’s important for a doctor of chiropractic to conduct a careful history and examination to determine if the patient’s neck pain are indeed related or if the issues need to be addressed independently. Here’s the process most patients with neck pain can expect when consulting with PA Pain & Rehab.

How We Treat Neck Pain in Philadelphia, PA

Consultation and Exam

Doctors of chiropractic start out with a past history that includes the following: 

  1. prior injuries or accidents 
  2. family history
  3. social history (including education level and occupation, sleep habits, tobacco/alcohol use, and more) 
  4. current medication use to identify potential side effects
  5. review of your systems (cardiovascular, respiratory, ears/nose/throat, genito-urinary, and more)

The present history then looks at each complaint individually to determine the onset, palliative, and provoking positions/activities/situations, quality of symptoms, radiation and location of complaints, the severity of complaints (pain—right now, on average, at best and at worst), and timing (better in the morning or night, work-relatedness, hormonal shifts, or patterns).

The examination may include vital signs (blood pressure, pulse, respiration, height, weight, temperature, etc.); observation of posture, gait, movement, affect, facial grimace; palpation of muscles, trigger points, joint noise (crepitation), warmth; orthopedic tests that provoke an increase and/or decrease in pain/symptoms; neurological tests; and consideration for special tests like x-ray, MRI, EMG or a consult with other medical providers.

This information results in a working diagnosis from which our team of doctors can create a treatment plan for the patient. Commonly used approaches you can expect from us may include treatments such as spinal adjustments (thrust and non-thrust types); mobilization (stretch-type); “drop table” methods; manual traction, trigger point, and other “soft-tissue” techniques; and modalities such as vibration, ice/heat, electric stim, ultrasound, and more. Additional self-care or at-home strategies may include specific exercise training, posture retraining, nutritional recommendations, and activity modifications.

Specific Chiropractic Care in Philadelphia

Chiropractic care can be a great way to manage and relieve swelling and discomfort caused by neck pain. Routine chiropractic care provides patients with neck pain a safe, non-invasive, non-addictive alternative to prescription medications or over-the-counter pain medications (OTCs), which are commonly prescribed to patients to help them manage their pain and swelling.

Chiropractors deliver a gentle and non-invasive treatment known as a chiropractic adjustment. Chiropractic adjustments reduce joint restrictions or misalignments in the spine and other joints in the body in an effort to reduce inflammation and improve the function of both the affected joint and nervous system. By increasing joint mobility and improving your nervous system function and spinal health, your body has the ability to better manage the discomfort in the neck.

Custom Therapeutic Exercise Program

The origin of most of the neck pain we see in our offices many times is due to an injury such as a car accident or work related accident. However, most of the patients that we see with neck pain, in general, suffer from a muscle imbalance that usually leads to poor posture. The most common form of poor posture is Forward Head Posture (FHP). This is easily seen when looking at someone’s posture from the side. A tell-tale sign of FHP is the patient’s ears line up in front of their shoulders instead of directly over the shoulders. This is also commonly known as Upper Crossed Syndrome. Muscles in the back of the neck and the top of the shoulders will become strained and overactive and the muscles in the front of the neck and chest become tight and shortened. 

At PA Pain & Rehab, our doctors will create a customized therapeutic exercise program that will not only help to correct these postural imbalances but will also help bring balance and stability back to the neck. In addition, they will help improve mobility and reduce stiffness which will only complement the adjustment and help get you feeling better as soon as possible. We take a progressive approach, slowly increasing the difficulty and duration of the exercises to target and rehabilitate injured tissues so that you can live pain-free with a full range of motion. Because each exercise is tailored to your stage of healing and adapted as you progress, you can make fast improvements, giving you control of your journey towards physical healing and restoration.

Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS) for Neck Pain

EMS is a popular treatment for neck pain, muscle tightness, and muscle spasms. EMS technology delivers effective, affordable pain relief that many people also find very soothing. EMS delivers light electrical pulses to the muscles surrounding the site of neck pain. This relaxes the muscles which can relieve pain, reduce inflammation, and decrease muscle spasms. During this therapy, a patient lies down and the therapist places electrodes on the affected areas of the skin. At PA Pain & Rehab, we use EMS to treat acute and chronic neck pain resulting from a variety of conditions, sprains and strains, and automobile accident injuries. The goal of chiropractic care is to help patients recover from pain and impaired muscle function. Electrical muscle stimulation is often used as a part of our chiropractic treatment plan to help manage pain as quickly as possible.

Common Causes of Neck Pain in Philadelphia, PA

Activities and events that affect the neck include extended sitting, repetitive movement, accidents, falls, blows to the body or head, normal aging, and everyday wear and tear. Neck pain can be very bothersome and it can have a variety of causes. Here are some of the most typical causes of neck pain:

Whiplash

A sudden forced movement of the head or neck in any direction and the resulting “rebound” in the opposite direction is known as whiplash. The sudden “whipping” motion injures the surrounding and supporting tissues of the neck and head. Muscles react by tightening and contracting, creating muscle fatigue, which can result in pain and stiffness. Severe whiplash can also be associated with injury to the intervertebral joints, discs, ligaments, muscles, and nerve roots. Car accidents are the most common cause of whiplash.

Growing Older

Degenerative disorders such as osteoarthritis, spinal stenosis, and degenerative disc disease directly affect the spine.

Osteoarthritis

This common joint disorder causes progressive deterioration of cartilage. The body reacts by forming bone spurs that affect joint motion.

Spinal Stenosis

Spinal stenosis causes the small nerve passageways in the vertebrae to narrow, compressing and trapping nerve roots. Stenosis may cause neck, shoulder, and arm pain, as well as numbness when these nerves are unable to function normally.

Degenerative Disc Disease

Degeneration can cause a reduction in the elasticity and height of intervertebral discs. Over time, a disc may bulge or herniate, causing tingling, numbness, and pain that runs into the arm.

Daily Life

Poor posture, obesity, and weak abdominal muscles often disrupt spinal balance, causing the neck to bend forward to compensate. Stress and emotional tension can cause muscles to tighten and contract, resulting in pain and stiffness. Postural stress can contribute to chronic neck pain with symptoms extending into the upper back and the arms.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are chiropractic adjustments to the neck safe?

Yes! Chiropractic adjustments are a safe, natural, and non-invasive way to treat pain, especially neck pain. At PA Pain & Rehab, we have helped thousands of people with neck pain and we would be happy to evaluate you and see if chiropractic is right for you. 

When should you see a chiropractor for neck pain?

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms you should consult with a chiropractor regarding your neck pain:

  • A persistent ache
  • A stabbing or burning pain
  • Increased sensitivity to mild pressure applied to the neck
  • Neck pain plus headache and numbness or tingling in one or both arms
  • Increased tension/tightening in the muscles in the neck

Is it ok to “pop” my own neck?

No. It’s definitely not recommended. If done too often or too forcefully by pulling and twisting with your hands, it can result in joint instability and misalignments which can cause even more neck pain!