When dealing with lower neck pain, there are many ways to treat it. Learn what chiropractic care does to help alleviate symptoms.
Chiropractic care is a non-medical treatment that helps relieve pain in joints and muscles. Chiropractors use their hands to apply force to misaligned joints along the spine. This alternative treatment helps improve the body’s physical function and promotes self-healing.
Neck pain is increasingly becoming a global problem. The general prevalence of neck pain is between 4.8% and 79.5%. On average, 28.5% of the population experiences neck pain every year. This rate is higher among women and people in high-income countries.
There are many ways to treat lower neck pain. Learn what chiropractic care does to help alleviate symptoms.
Common Causes of Lower Neck Pain
Lower neck pain can be a recurrent problem. It can last a few days or several years, depending on the cause. Lower neck pain can result from:
Osteoarthritis is a type of arthritis that results from degeneration of joint cartilage. Cartilage is a flexible tissue that reduces friction between two bones and functions as a shock absorber. In time, this cartilage starts to wear out, which gradually becomes painful. This problem is more common in older people and individuals with obesity.
Overusing your neck muscles due to poor posture or physical exercise can cause neck pain, for example, when you bend your neck for hours when using a smartphone or a computer. Also, most people experience neck pain at work after facing in one direction for too long or sleeping all night in the same position.
Neck injury occurs when the head jerks forward, followed by a sudden backward movement. This injury, also called whiplash, causes muscles and ligaments of the neck to move beyond their motion range. Whiplash may result from a car accident, crashing during a sport, and other traumatic events.
Other causes of lower neck pain include:
- A herniated disc, which occurs due to slipping or rupturing of the disc
- Health conditions such as meningitis and cancer
- Mental stress that leads to tightening of the neck muscles
- A bone spur, which is a bony growth at the joints
Symptoms of Lower Neck Pain
Symptoms of lower neck pain include:
- Muscle stiffness that makes it difficult to turn your head
- Pain in the neck and head that worsens when you move your neck
- Possible numbness, weakness, and tingling in your arms depending on the cause of the pain
- Difficulty maintaining balance when you walk
Chiropractic Examination and Diagnosis
Before treating neck pain, a chiropractor needs to understand the cause. During a consultation, the chiropractor will ask questions to understand more about your pain. You’ll have to describe the pain, the frequency of the pain, and your symptoms. Some causes are easy to identify, such as when you have an injury. But others may not be obvious.
A chiropractor will also want to know about your occupation and family history. If your job requires working too long behind a desk, the cause could be poor posture. Your medical history will help determine whether the problem is recurrent and whether it’s a symptom of an underlying condition.
Sometimes, lower neck pain could result from a bone fracture or tumor. An X-ray may be necessary to reveal such problems. In these cases, the chiropractor will refer you to a different doctor for treatment.
Most chiropractors use palpation to feel the spine with their hands. Palpation helps detect spines that are out of alignment or stuck. During the examination, you’ll feel pressure and sense the areas with inflammation. Those are the areas that need a chiropractic adjustment.
The chiropractor will also check your range of motion. In this test, you move your head in lateral and vertical motions. Sometimes, you might be able to turn your neck 90 degrees on one side but only 50 degrees on the other side. This imbalance indicates that something isn’t right.
How Does a Chiropractor Treat Lower Neck Pain?
Chiropractors help relieve lower neck pain by ensuring spines are well aligned and properly functioning. When the system is in good order, you shouldn’t feel pain and discomfort. To do this, chiropractors use different adjustment techniques, as shown below.
Chiropractic Adjustments for Lower Neck Pain
- Cervical mobilization. This technique is also called low-velocity, low-amplitude (LVLA). It involves using less force to move your spinal joints within tolerable limits. It requires you to lie on your back. Then, a chiropractor holds your head and extends it from side to side. Then they increase the range of motion to figure 8 and rotational movements. After the stretching, your neck’s vertebrae become more flexible.
- Cervical spinal manipulation. Also called the high-velocity, low-amplitude technique (HVLA), this intervention requires more force to make the joints move within the anatomic range of motion. The chiropractor makes sudden motions while twisting your neck. You’re likely to hear a popping sound during the session. A chiropractor can use one or both cervical spinal manipulation and cervical mobilization techniques, depending on the need.
- Cervical traction. The practitioner holds your head and pulls it gently away from your body. The aim is to create spaces between vertebrae and relieve pressure from nerves and discs. A chiropractor can do this manually or mechanically. Manual cervical traction involves pulling the head using hands and holding the position for about 10 seconds. In a mechanical approach, your chiropractor uses a harness to support your head. Then a machine pulls the harness with controlled force.
Benefits of Chiropractic Care for Low Neck Pain
Chiropractic care can help you in the following ways:
It’s a Non-invasive Treatment
Chiropractic care for lower neck pain is a non-invasive treatment that doesn’t involve surgery. It takes longer to recover from surgery, and some people consider it risky. Even though chiropractic is a non-medical procedure, it’s an effective treatment for neck pain caused by poor posture and injuries.
Studies show that chiropractic care is effective in some individuals experiencing lower back pain. The same mechanism applies to lower neck pain. Most people with lower neck pain report feeling better after undergoing the sessions.
Chiropractic care helps realign the spine to its normal position. As a result, the pressure on the muscles reduces as the joints start functioning normally. When your body functions normally, it doesn’t produce inflammatory agents like neuropeptides.
Increases the Range of Motion
Chiropractic treatment reduces muscle spasms and neck stiffness and facilitates blood flow and the proper functioning of the nervous system. You can turn your head to a higher degree and find it easier to perform daily activities. Increased range of motion can help you perform better in sporting activities.
Reduces Pain and Discomfort
Neck pain can make you uncomfortable, especially when you need to turn frequently in different directions. It can cause fatigue and minimize your productivity. But chiropractic care helps relieve the neck pain, giving you comfort and energy to do your day-to-day activities.
Reduces Reliance on Pain Relievers
After chiropractic treatment, your headache and neck pain may reduce significantly, so you may stop or reduce the intake of pain relievers. Some pain medications like opioids have side effects such as feeling sleepy and increasing blood pressure. Furthermore, pain relievers may be expensive and they don’t cure the problem. On the other hand, chiropractic care promotes healing, which reduces the chances of feeling pain in the future.
Reduces the Cost of Treatment
Chiropractic care reduces the chances of taking expensive pain relievers and eliminates the need for surgery. Research shows that patients who go for chiropractic care reduce treatment costs by 28% compared to those who choose surgery.
Boosts the Immune System
Spinal manipulation relaxes the muscles and promotes fluid movement. It also reduces pressure on the nerves and blood vessels. As a result, body cells and tissues regain strength, enabling them to fight bacteria and viruses. People who go to chiropractic sessions are less likely to have a cold or flu.
Lowers Blood Pressure
Chiropractic care for lower neck pain may help relax the cervical vertebra at the top of the neck. The relaxation of these vertebrae reduces pressure on the blood vessels, allowing more blood to flow. As a result, the overall blood pressure decreases.
When to See a Chiropractor
If your lower neck pain interferes with daily activities, you should see your chiropractor. Sometimes, neck pain may be an emergency, especially when:
- It occurs after an accident
- It happens persistently for a week
- It includes other symptoms such as headache and numbness in the arms
- It’s accompanied by swelling
- You can’t touch your chest with your chin
Chiropractic manipulation for lower neck pain doesn’t hurt. It also involves lower risk than surgery, especially if you go to a well-qualified chiropractor recognized by the American Chiropractic Association.
Anyone can have lower neck pain, but the risks increase with age. Chiropractic care for lower neck pain is less invasive and cheaper than surgery. It doesn’t have the side effects of some medical treatments. Other than relieving pain, chiropractic care has many other benefits. It increases your range of motion, reduces inflammation, and boosts your immunity.
If you have neck pain that makes you uncomfortable, chiropractic care might help you find relief. However, this treatment may not be appropriate for all patients, especially those with bone fractures and underlying medical conditions. Consult your doctor to see if you are a suitable candidate for chiropractic care for lower neck pain.
Is Chiropractic Safe for Neck Pain?
Chiropractic neck adjustments are safe when performed by a trained and licensed chiropractor. When performed by an experienced licensed professional, risks associated with chiropractic neck treatments are rare.
What happens after a chiropractic adjustment for lower neck pain?
Patients may be given exercises to do after chiropractic adjustments for the lower neck to improve their posture and range of motion. Chiropractors often give cold or heat therapy to reduce pain. Topical analgesics such as lidocaine patches may also be used. Chiropractors may suggest exercises for maintaining spinal health.