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Back Pain-Upper/Neck

image of woman in pain holding her neck

Most neck and upper back pain is caused by a combination of factors, including injury, poor posture, chiropractic subluxations, stress, and in some instances, disc problems.

Most people do not realize how much they move their neck during the day until they are unable to do so. The degree of flexibility of the neck, coupled with the fact that it has the least amount of muscular stabilization and it has to support and move your 14 - 16 pound head, means that the neck is very susceptible to injury. You can picture your neck and head much like a bowling ball being held on top of a stick by small, thin, elastic bands. It doesn't take much force to disrupt that delicate balance.

The spinal cord runs through a space in the vertebrae to send nerve impulses to every part of the body. Between each pair of cervical vertebrae, the spinal cord sends off large bundles of nerves that run down the arms and to some degree, the upper back. This means that if your arm is hurting, it may actually be a problem in the neck! Symptoms in the arms can include numbness, tingling, cold, aching, and "pins and needles".

These symptoms can be confused with carpal tunnel syndrome, a painful condition in the hands that is often found in people who work at computer keyboards or perform other repetitive motion tasks for extended periods. Problems in the neck can also contribute to headaches, muscle spasms in the shoulders and upper back, ringing in the ears, otitis media (inflammation in the middle ear, often mistaken for an ear infection in children), temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ), restricted range of motion and chronic tightness in the neck and upper back.

We associate the neck and upper back together, because most of the muscles that are associated with the neck either attach to, or are located in, the upper back. These muscles include the trapezius, the levator scapulae, the cervical paraspinal muscles and the scalenes, as well as others.

The Causes of Neck and Upper Back Pain

Most neck and upper back pain is caused by a combination of factors, including injury, poor posture, chiropractic subluxations, stress, and in some instances, disc problems.

Injuries

By far, the most common injury to the neck is a whiplash injury. Whiplash is caused by a sudden movement of the head, either backward, forward, or sideways, that results in the damage to the supporting muscles, ligaments and other connective tissues in the neck and upper back. Whether from a car accident, sports, or an accident at work, whiplash injuries need to be taken very seriously. Because symptoms of a whiplash injury can take weeks or months to manifest, it is easy to be fooled into thinking that you are not as injured as you really are. Too often people don't seek treatment following a car accident or sports injury because they don't feel hurt. Unfortunately, by the time more serious complications develop, some of the damage from the injury may have become permanent. Numerous studies have shown that years after whiplash victims settle their insurance claims, roughly half of them state that they still suffer with symptoms from their injuries. If you have been in a motor vehicle or any other kind of accident, don't assume that you escaped injury if you are not currently in pain. Get checked out by a good chiropractor.

Forward head posture is very common for people who are stooped over their computers all day long. If not taken care of with chiropractic care, subluxations like this can worsen over time.

Poor Posture

One of the most common causes of neck pain, and sometimes headaches, is poor posture. It's easy to get into bad posture habits without even realizing it - even an activity as "innocent" as reading in bed can ultimately lead to pain, headaches, and more serious problems. The basic rule is simple: keep your neck in a "neutral" position whenever possible. Don't bend or hunch your neck forward for long periods. Also, try not to sit in one position for a long time. If you must sit for an extended period, make sure your posture is good: Keep your head in a neutral position, make sure your back is supported, keep your knees slightly lower than your hips, and rest your arms if possible.

Subluxations

Subluxations in the neck and upper back area are extremely common due to the high degree of stress associated with holding up your head, coupled with the high degree of instability in the cervical spine. Most subluxations tend to be centered around four areas: the top of the cervical spine where it meets the skull; in the middle of the cervical spine where the mechanical stress from the head is the greatest; in the transition where the cervical and thoracic areas of the spine meet; and in the middle of the thoracic spine where the mechanical stress from the weight of the upper body is greatest. Signs of subluxation include looking in the mirror and seeing your head tilted or one shoulder higher than the other. Often women will notice that their sleeve length is different or that a necklace is hanging off center. If someone looks at you from the side they may notice that your head sits forward from your shoulders. This is known as FHP - forward head posture - and is very common for people who are stooped over their computers all day long. Subluxations are a debt to the body. If they are not taken care of soon after they occur, then they can get much worse over time due to the accumulation of compounding interest.

Stress

When most people become stressed, they unconsciously contract their muscles. In particular, the muscles in their back. This 'muscle guarding' is a survival response designed to guard against injury. In today's world where we are not exposed to physical danger most of the time, muscle guarding still occurs whenever we become emotionally stressed. The areas most affected are the muscles of the neck, upper back and low back. For most of us, the particular muscle affected by stress is the trapezius muscle, where daily stress usually leads to chronic tightness and the development of trigger points.

The two most effective ways you can reduce the physical effects of stress on your own are to increase your activity level - exercise - and by deep breathing exercises. When you decrease the physical effects of stress, you can substantially reduce the amount of tightness and pain in your upper back and neck.

Disc Herniations

The discs in your cervical spine can herniate or bulge and put pressure on the nerves that exit from the spine through that area. Although cervical discs do not herniate nearly as often as lumbar discs do, they occasionally can herniate, especially when the discs sustain damage from a whiplash injury. Contact us today!

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  • "Excellent patient care and results from this clinic, which uses a holistic approach that combines chiropractic, massage, and clinical nutrition. Highly recommended!"
    Rachel M.
  • "I am new to your clinic and getting great results with the Nutritional Response Testing. Thank you so very much. I highly recommend the services of PCCC in Flat Rock."
    Emily S.
  • "I love it here! Everyone is extremely polite and helpful. I see Doctor Porter II and he’s been a lifesaver. He’s made room for me on his schedule multiple times when I’ve been randomly hit with a chronic migraine. He genuinely takes his time and cares about his patients. I’m really thankful for the friends that recommended me to this place and I highly recommend everyone else comes here as well."
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  • "I have been a patient of Dr. Porter for more than 20 years. He has helped me maintain a strong immune system and to live without pain. I trust him more than any medical doctor or specialist with my health and well-being."
    Review from healthgrades.com
  • "Dr. Cara and the staff at Porter & Clark Chiropractic are wonderful! The adjustments, heat and massage have healed my aches and pains (slight and severe) over the last several years. I would highly recommend Dr. Cara to anyone needing Chiropractic care."
    Chris T.
  • "The staff, they make this place amazing. If you need an adjustment or a massage check everyone out. The staff are helpful in finding you the type of therapist you need for your massage, and each doctor is pretty amazing, in their quality of care and concern for you as a client while you are on their tables."
    Adam I-L
  • "Been coming here for 11 years now... I feel immediate relaxation after adjustments and 9 out of 10 times my back pain has subsided. Some days I'm so bad I call to make an appointment and they get me in the office same day!! I can't say enough about Dr. Porter and the staff in general."
    Brandon L.
  • "I love this place! Dr. Clark has taken care of my chronic pain for years! No other treatments have been nearly as effective. A bonus is that the staff is always so friendly and helpful!!"
    Mary B.
  • "Dr. Porter has been treating me with an ongoing problem for years. I starting going to him after I could not get relief from my family physician. Through his treatments and a vitamin regimen, I don't need pain meds & feel so much better."
    Review from healthgrades.com
  • "The doctors and all the staff are excellent!"
    Tanya W.
  • "I am no longer in pain under Dr. Cara Phillips' care! Staff is always very friendly and greet you when you walk in. My first appointment they took xrays and did an evaluation. I now go to be adjusted monthly. They also offer heat therapy and a massage before being adjusted."
    Maggie J.
  • "With his gift for healing, and his expertise with NRT (Nutritional Response Testing), Dr. Porter has saved my life! I am off prescription medications and no longer suffer from chronic lower GI pain and problems."
    Charles K.
  • "Dr. Michael Porter II has taken care of me since I was in an auto accident last year, and monthly visits keep me out of pain. The office is a welcoming place, and patient care is clearly their priority. Highly recommended."
    Adam W.
  • "Dr. Clark has the best practice on the planet. Great individual time and attention. Chiropractors and massage therapists truly concerned about your health. Pleasant office atmosphere."
    Debbie A.

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