“I can’t turn my head to drive” The Scary Truth About Neck Problems
Neck pain is one of the most common and brutal conditions that people in Wellington and West Palm Beach want treated in my office. I think people often underestimate how debilitating spine pain from the neck can be. We put such little thought to it because it’s not a named chronic disease or condition. I think that it’s easy to forget just how much having a bad neck can affect someone’s quality of life.
When you have bad neck pain, it affects most every part of your life. Here are some of the most common quality of life complaints:
- “I can never find a comfortable position to sleep”
- “I can’t work on the computer long before my neck kills me”
- “I’m afraid to work out and hurt my neck worse”
However, there’s one complaint that stands out above the rest when it comes to people with chronic neck pain.
“I’m so scared of driving now because I can’t turn my head to look for traffic”
It’s a little scary when you really think about it. Our head and neck were evolutionary designed to turn like it does to recognize danger. When you have a neck injury that prevents your head from turning, you have very literally given up an evolutionary advantage that protects you on those not-so-safe Florida roads. Ever drive on I-95 in the midafternoon from Broward to Palm Beach? Now think about doing that 5 times a week when you can’t turn your neck without stabbing pain.
That’s a serious problem.
Ever Have Neck Pain for a Day? Try Having it for Years
“My neck was severely affected and limited my ability to turn left and right. When I would drive, my inability to move my head from side to side became almost dangerous for me. I tried to do exercises that I had been taught in physical therapy, but my mobility did not return”
Almost all of us have experienced neck pain of some sort in our lives. Most of the time, it’s because we’ve woken up after a terrible night’s sleep, or falling asleep in a long car/plane ride with our head hanging off to the side. It is absolutely miserable. Your neck feels very tight. You have this incessant need to try to pop it. You probably have a headache to go along with the neck pain. Worst of all, you don’t want to go anywhere and look crazy because you have to turn your body to everyone you see.
Now take that one day experience, and imagine this is your day to day life.
Chronic neck pain may not carry the same disability status as people who have had suffered major back injuries, but the damage that neck pain has on health and quality of life is tremendous.
One of the biggest challenges with chronic neck pain is that it is very difficult to treat. It’s such a sensitive area neurologically, and conventional treatments tend to be hit or miss.
- Over the counter anti-inflammatory medication – control pain for a duration. Does not improve neck mechanics and range of motion is still limited.
- Exercise/postural correction – unlike the back, there are no big bulky muscles available to take on the weight of a poorly loaded neck. Ergonomic changes have improved outcomes for low back pain, but done very little to change neck outcomes
- Injections – one of the most common treatments for chronic neck pain. While it can be a huge source of pain-relief for people with neck pain, it also comes with the burden of side-effects
- Surgery – No one wants to get neck surgery, but in the case of severe herniations or instability, it may be necessary prevent some serious neurologic consequences.
Structural Correction of the Cervical Spine
“In March, I was unable to turn my neck. I recalled my friend’s doctor and got his info and made an appointment with Dr. Jonathan Chung at Keystone Chiropractic. He specializes in the treatment of the structure of the spine known as the “Atlas” area near the brain stem.”
There are about 1000 chiropractors in the country who have devoted their entire practice to correcting problems in the upper cervical spine. In South Florida, there are about 7-10 doctors from Palm Beach County to Miami-Dade with this type of focus.
While we are pretty few in number, our goal is to provide a comprehensive solution to correcting the biomechanical and neurological nature of chronic neck dysfunction. A chiropractor focused on upper cervical correction is usually pretty distinct in a number of ways:
- Very precise x-ray set up and analytics
- Gentle corrective procedures using lower force methods. Usually does not have the popping, twisting, and cracking of a traditional chiropractic manipulation
- Uses x-ray or scans before and after a correction to verify that the job has been done.
- Encourages a less is more approach. His goal will be to correct/adjust you infrequently
Who Are the Best Candidates for Care?
Not everyone is a good candidate for upper cervical correction. Screening procedures are used to determine if you have a specific problem called Atlas Displacement Complex (ADC). The more chronic the problem is, the more likely that ADC is the primary cause.
Correcting the Atlas addresses the biomechanical, neurological, and vascular problems commonly seen in neck pain. Some of the common Secondary Conditions in the neck from ADC include:
- Cervical disc disease
- Cervical disc herniation
- Fibromyalgia pain
- Facet pain
- Pinched nerve syndromes
- Cervicogenic headache
- Trigeminal Nerve Dysfunction
“His treatment seems so minor and it makes you think that this small treatment can’t possibly be effective in any significant way! But, let me tell you….IT IS! I have been going for the last two months and I am amazingly mobile again, and this was accomplished with NO physical therapy on my part! I can now turn my head to either side, drive with mobility, and no longer arise from a sitting position stooped over.”
In April of 2012, I had an out of town patient come in from Chicago. She had been referred to us by one of our local Wellington patients to come down from Chicago and try Structural Chiropractic care through the NUCCA protocol. She had been suffering from chronic neck pain for 5-years and was diagnosed with pinched nerves from a herniated disc in her neck. While the pain was bad, the biggest problem was her inability to turn her head and the resulting depression from living such a restricted life.
She was desperate for relief. She had been through a course of physical therapy, acupuncture, and a long list of injections, but she had not been able to turn her head for years without a tremendous amount of pain.
She had put a lot of trust into her friend, and she was only going to be in town for a week to see if it would work for her.Needless to say there was a lot riding on one exam and a maximum of 2 visits.
We performed a full exam and series of precision upper cervical x-rays on her neck so we could design an exact Atlas Correction for her neck. In many ways, it’s like designing a key for a unique lock. Everyone has a unique misalignment that requires a precisely designed correction.
A gentle Atlas Correction procedure was performed and post-correction x-rays were taken to verify improvement in the alignment and mechanical position of the head and neck. She left the office skeptical and unsure if such a gentle procedure would help her overcome 5 years of pain and suffering. She was dismissed with instructions to come back tomorrow for follow-up.
The next day she came in late for her appointment and she had the puffy-eyed look of someone who had been crying. She said that she didn’t notice a difference in her pain level after her first correction. However, when she was driving to the office, she had passed our exit on the highway and turned her head back towards the exit sign in frustration.
It was then that she realized that she was able to turn her head without crumbling in pain for the first time in years. She had pulled off the side of the road to cry tears of hope and joy thinking that she may finally have an answer to her neck problems.
We had her continue care with another Structural Chiropractor in Chicago that used the NUCCA protocol for future follow ups. Although I don’t know what’s happened to her since then, after a dramatic reaction to her first correction, I feel confident that our work would help her if continued.
Did you like this article? Feel free to share it with the people you care about and see if a Complimentary Consultation is the next step to regain their health.
Dr. Chung is a practicing Structural Chiropractor in the West Palm Beach area. He has been published in peer reviewed scientific journals and is a sought after speaker in health and wellness. Follow his blog at http://chiropractorwellington.com/category/keystone-chiropractic-blog/ or find him on twitter at @drjonathanchung