If you’ve experienced neck pain, you’re not alone. According to the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), healthcare spending for the United States for lower back and neck discomfort topped over $87 billion. It was the third highest health issue, second only to diabetes and ischemic heart disease. It also carries indirect economic and personal costs that go beyond these figures.
But the essential thing is to get relief fast.
You may wonder if you should get chiropractic neck adjustments to help with the pain. It is, after all, one of the common reasons that people seek out this treatment option. Let’s begin with the signs and possible causes of this condition to see if this option is right for you.
Symptoms of Neck Pain
Discomfort, of course, is the obvious symptom of this condition. But you may also experience muscle tightness leading to restricted movement of your neck. You may also get a headache too, especially if your muscles swell and put more pressure on your nerves. And the disturbing thing about it is that it often lingers. If it doesn’t go away in a day or two, you should visit your doctor.
Other signs that require attention include muscle weakness and any numbness or tingling sensation in your limbs. Of course, if your pain is severe, seek medical care immediately.
Causes of Neck Pain
Identifying the cause of neck pain can help your doctor determine a course of treatment. It can occur from mundane things such as sleeping in an awkward position or playing games on your smartphone. It can happen as an unintended consequence of aging and osteoarthritis.
The next step is to determine what’s behind the pain to see if neck adjustments will help. The preliminary work may seem tedious, but it’s essential for safety. It’s also vital to ensure that the doctor treats the right cause with the appropriate treatment plan.
Diagnosing Neck Pain Before Adjustments
On its own, neck pain isn’t diagnostic since it can have so many possible causes. A doctor will start with a physical examination to assess your freedom of movement and determine if there is any swelling or specific tender spots.
The chiropractor may order x-rays or imaging tests to pinpoint the problem.
X-rays focus on dense tissue such as bone. It’s helpful for determining if something is pinching a nerve. Other tests such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRIs) or computed tomography (CT scan) look at the condition of soft tissues like muscle. These initial assessments, along with your medical history, are necessary to find out if you’re a candidate for neck adjustments.
Other tests can provide further information to home in on the correct diagnosis. Electromyography (EMG), for example, assesses nerve and muscle function by checking the electrical activity of your muscles in response to movement.
It’s useful for identifying issues with pinched nerves.
Treating Neck Pain with Chiropractic Adjustments
If your doctor rules out disease or other cause for your discomfort, he may suggest that you get chiropractic neck adjustments if other options haven’t worked. This procedure involves the use of controlled force on one or more affected joints at the top of the spine called the cervical vertebrae.
Its purpose is to improve flexibility and motion to relieve pain.
You will typically lie down on a padded chiropractic table during the procedure. You may hear snapping noises caused by the air bubbles with the synovial fluid around your joints popping. The sound of connective tissue returning to its correct place may also occur. It’s not unlike what you’d notice when cracking your knuckles.
Often, your doctor will use neck adjustments along with other procedures to provide relief such as transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), Pilates, therapeutic exercises, or pain medication.
In some ways, it is similar to physical therapy. A patient may receive multiple treatments with reassessments throughout its course to match the progress of the condition with the appropriate option.
Benefits and Risks of Chiropractic Neck Adjustments
Like any medical treatment, neck adjustments have both pros and cons. Knowing both can help you and your doctor determine its efficacy in your situation. Let’s consider each side to assess its safety.
One of the overriding benefits of neck adjustments is that they are non-invasive. They don’t involve breaking the skin barrier, whether it’s an incision or injection. They don’t include probes or other devices that enter a body opening. That reduces the complications of infections and sepsis considerably.
Instead, they are more of a conservative approach.
Many patients have multiple sessions with this treatment option. Your doctor will work with you to develop a plan based on your situation and needs. That extra contact time bolsters the doctor-patient relationship that some individuals will appreciate.
Risks of the Procedure
Perhaps the foremost question you have is can a chiropractic neck adjustment cause a stroke – is it a myth?
Unfortunately, the answer is no. The concern rests with the possibility of a vertebral artery stroke. If not done properly by trained practitioners, abnormal stretching of the blood vessel within the top vertebrae of the spine can cause it to tear or form blood clots.
Symptoms of this condition include visual disturbances, vertigo, headache, and persistent neck pain worse after chiropractor visit. It’s crucial, therefore, to follow up with your doctor if you experience any of these signs following your session.
When looking at the question of are chiropractic neck adjustments dangerous, the answer is that the risk is low. A review published in the Journal of Manual and Manipulative Therapy concluded that there is about a 10-percent inherent and unpreventable risk of adverse events from neck or cervical spine manipulations.
Nevertheless, it’s imperative to trust your healthcare only with trained professionals.
Preventing Complications from Chiropractic Treatment
A thorough neurologic exam is an excellent way to identify issues that may cause complications and help avoid chiropractic neck adjustments side effects. Your doctor will also qualify your risk based on your current health and the nature of your problem.
It’s also wise to delay neck adjustments if you’ve just injured your neck. Adjustments may aggravate the pain and swelling you’ll first experience with an acute condition. For issues that are muscular in nature, the risk of complications is low.
Who Shouldn’t Get Neck Adjustments
Individuals with a pre-existing health condition involving the neck or spine are not good candidates for this procedure. Because the health risks exist with the circulatory system, patients with known risk factors for heart disease or stroke should reconsider it too.
Likewise, you should avoid it if you’re talking blood thinners or any medication or dietary supplement that increases your chances of bleeding.
You might also be wondering if neck cracking is bad?
Some people will do it for short-term pain relief. Most doctors urge their patients to avoid, although the risk is unclear. Again, the chance of an adverse event is extremely low, but why take a chance?
The essential thing to remember with chiropractic neck adjustments is to make sure that you’re dealing with experienced practitioners. Any medical procedure carries risks whether or not it’s invasive.
That’s why an initial consultation is vital.
By identifying potential risk factors, your doctor can suggest an appropriate treatment plan to relieve your pain and return you to your pre-injury status.