As discussed last month, when you make an appointment for a chiropractic evaluation for your neck pain, your doctor of chiropractic will provide both in-office procedures as well as teach you many self-help approaches so that as a “team”, together WE can manage your neck pain or headache complaint to a satisfying end-point. So, what are some of these procedures? Let’s take a look!
In the office, you can expect to receive a thorough history, examination, x-ray (if warranted), and a discussion about what chiropractic care can be done for you and your condition. Your doctor will map out a treatment plan and discuss commonly shared goals of 1) Pain reduction, 2) Posture/alignment restoration, and 3) Prevention of future episodes. Pain reduction approaches include (but are not limited to) joint mobilization and/or manipulation, muscle/ligament stretching techniques, inflammation control by the use of physical therapy modalities (such as electrical stimulation), ice, and possibly anti-inflammatory vitamin / herbal therapies. Your chiropractor will also teach you proper body mechanics for bending/lifting/pulling/pushing, and help you avoid positions or situations where you might re-injure the area. Posture/alignment restoration can include methods such as spinal manipulation / mobilization and leg length correction strategies (heel and/or sole lifts, special orthotic shoes, and/or foot orthotic inserts). These are often GREAT recommendations as they “work” all the time they are in your shoes and you don’t have to do anything (except wear them)! The third goal of future episode prevention is often a combination ongoing treatments in the office and strategies you can employ at home. This includes (but is not limited to): 1) whether you should use ice, heat, or both at times of acute exacerbation; 2) avoiding positions or movements that create sharp/lancinating pain; 3) DOING THE EXERCISES that you’ve been taught ON A REGULAR BASIS; and 4) eating and an “anti-inflammatory” diet (lean meats, lots of fruits/veggies, and avoid gluten – wheat, oats, barley, rye).
Let’s talk exercise! Your doctor of chiropractic will teach you exercises that are designed to increase range of motion (ROM), re-educate a flat or reversed curve in the neck, and strengthen / stabilize the muscles in the neck. Studies show that the deep neck flexor muscles – those that are located deep, next to the spine in the front of the neck – are frequently weak in patients with neck pain. These muscles are NOT voluntary so you have to “trick” them into contracting with very specific exercises. Your doctor will also teach you exercises that you can do EVERY HOUR of your work day (for 10-15 seconds) that are designed to prevent neck pain from gradually worsening so you aren’t miserable by the end of work. Along these lines, he/she will discuss the set-up of your work station and how you might improve it – whether it’s a chair, desk, computer position, a table/work station height issue, or a reaching problem; using proper “ergonomics” can REALLY HELP! Your doctor will also advise you not to talk on the phone pinching the receiver between your head and shoulder, to face the person you are talking to (avoiding prolonged head rotation), to tuck in your chin as a posture training exercise, and more. Cervical traction can be a GREAT home-applied, self-help strategy, and these come in many varieties. Proper positions for the head when sleeping and a properly fitted contoured pillow is also important since we spend about 1/3 of our lives asleep!