Your neck supports the weight and movement of your head – quite a job, since an adult’s head can weigh between ten and fourteen pounds! It also contains the vast majority of nerves that reach from your brain to the rest of your body, like a pipe full of fibre-optic cables. With the amount of driving, computer work and TV watching that most of us do, it’s not surprising that we need a little chiropractic help to keep our necks doing their job properly.
Hold yourself up
The further away from your body you hold something, the heavier it feels. Neck pain may often be caused by the long-term effect of bad posture, especially when you regularly hold a weight too far from your body. This might be:
The weight of your head, as you bend over a desk
Lifting babies and children
Carrying shopping or golf clubs into or out of the back of your car
The result is a loss of proper movement in the jointsin your neck, which may interfere with the healthy working of the nerves that run through it. It can lead to pain, although it may take days, weeks or even months to develop.
Not just a pain in the neck
Loss of proper joint movement may cause irritation of the nerves that come out of your spine. This, in turn, can lead to pain where the nerves end. This is known as ‘referred’ pain. You may already know about sciatica, which is leg pain often caused by nerve irritation in the lower spine. This is why your neck may be treated when you have consulted your chiropractor about shoulder and arm problems including:
Keep your joints moving properly
Chiropractic, unlike painkilling drugs, treats the cause of pain, not just the pain itself. Your chiropractor will carry out a full examination (including X-rays if necessary), and ask you questions about your posture, medical history and lifestyle, to help diagnose the cause of your neck, shoulder or arm pain.
Then your treatment will begin, often with gentle, specific adjustments (the chiropractic word for manipulation) done by hand, to free stiff joints and reduce nerve irritation. This effective drug-free treatment is generally painless, although you may feel some short-term discomfort if your neck is very sore. Your chiropractor may also recommend ice or heat treatment, massage and rehabilitative exercise.