It’s no surprise that our culture of sitting in front of a computer increases our chances of suffering from neck pain. Forward head posture and slumped/rounded shoulders create abnormal stress on the cervical spine and increase likelihood for symptoms of pain, headaches, and neurological problems (like tingling/numbness in the arms/hands). However, the postural stress is not usually the cause of the problem itself. The underlying issue is usually a misaligned cervical spine (neck) that is exacerbated by postural stress. The good news is that in most cases this problems is fixable with Upper Cervical Chiropractic care.
Some studies estimate that nearly 90% of people will eventually suffer from neck pain at some point in their life. Interestingly, neck pain is more prevalent in urban environments, especially among office and computer workers. It’s also more common in women and more prevalent in middle age (35-50)
The cause of neck pain is usually a combination between trauma and environmental factors. Trauma can include childhood falls, sports injuries, whiplash, or even a torqueing of the neck from the delivery process at birth. This trauma can cause the spine to misalign and lock into a stressed position. Over time, gravity will cause the spine to degenerate quicker than usual because the weight of the head is not being held up equally by the vertebra of the cervical spine. This degeneration can lead to problems with the joints, muscles, ligaments, and discs in the neck, which can cause pain and neurological symptoms with the shoulders, arms, hands, & head in addition to the neck.
Let’s take a look at the picture below. The left picture shows a healthy reverse-C curve of the neck. The head weighs about 10-12 lbs. and we live in a gravitational environment. This reverse-C curvature allows the neck vertebra to distribute the gravitational forces equally and act as a shock absorber. The picture on the right is an abnormal curve due to misalignments that have not been corrected. Over time, this abnormal curvature will most likely lead to degeneration, pain, and potentially neurological symptoms.
The first objective should be to correct the misalignment and restore a proper cervical curve. Upper Cervical Chiropractic care seeks to very specifically realign the C1/C2 area at the top of the neck in order to restore this curve. The Upper Cervical spine acts as a keystone to spinal alignment on a global level. In other words, by realigning the top two bones in the neck, the entire spine should come back into balance over time. As structure dictates function, the realigned spine will decrease stress on the discs, joints, and muscles of the neck, almost assuredly decreasing symptoms of neck pain.
The other part of the equation is ergonomics & posture. Realigning the spine through Upper Cervical Chiropractic care is the foundation of the treatment for neck pain, but needs to be complemented with proper posture, especially when sitting at a desk in front of a computer. See my blog on creating a healthy workplace for tips.
Neck pain and headaches are the most common conditions seen by an Upper Cervical Chiropractor. The good news is that if alignment can be restored, there is an excellent chance that the symptoms of neck pain and/or headaches will resolve over time.
~Noah Kaplan, D.C.
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2. Hoy DG, Protani M., De R., Buchbinder R. The Epidemiology of Neck Pain. Best Pract Res Clin Rheumatol. 2010 Dec;24(6):783-92.
3. Mäkelä M, Heliövaara M, Sievers K, et al. Prevalence, determinants, and consequences of chronic neck pain in Finland. Am J Epidemiol. 1991;134:1356–67.