For most of us, neck pain has reared its ugly head more than once. In fact, there are estimates that anywhere from one-in-ten to one-in-five people will experience an episode of neck pain in a given year. Though some studies report that between 33% and 65% of these people will recover within twelve months, many individuals will experience either a relapse of their neck pain or their neck pain will become a chronic health issue.
So what can a doctor of chiropractic do about it? The answer is simple: spinal manipulation (SM) and exercise. Spinal manipulation is the most common form of treatment delivered in a chiropractic setting, and many studies note that neck pain is the second most common reason patients seek chiropractic care (back pain is number one). Regarding exercise, patients may be advised to engage in stretching exercise, strengthening exercises, or both.
For example, after an hour of seated computer work, one might experience muscle fatigue from prolonged static postures, especially for those outside of a neutral position. For this scenario, here’s a great STRETCH option to do every 30-60 minutes (yes, SET A TIMER): 1) Tuck the chin (and keep it tucked); 2) reach with the right hand over the top of the head and gently pull the right ear toward the shoulder while the left hand reaches down to the floor (as if to pick up a dollar bill); 3) next, nod the head (as if gesturing “yes”) multiple times; 4) follow this by shaking the head left to right (as if gesturing “no”); 5) repeat steps one through four with the head/neck flexed forward and backwards, “searching” for the tightest spots and “work” them until they loosen up. Repeat on the opposite side.
Here is an exercise to STRENGTHEN the neck muscles. 1) Tuck in the chin while looking straight ahead; 2) place the back of your second and third fingers under your chin and nod (up/down) against mild resistance; 3) repeat five to ten times SLOWLY; 4) repeat steps one through three with head/neck flexed forward and then again backwards (looking towards the ceiling). Repeat multiple times each day.
The KEY is to set the timer to remind you to do these! If you have significant forward head carriage and rounded shoulders, your doctor of chiropractic can show you addition important exercises, but this will be a great start for you to gain control over that chronic, recurring neck pain that you’ve been putting up with for far too long!