by Ben Quigley
Neck pain is a common complaint that affects many people at some stage in their life and it can be effectively treated with osteopathy.
Investigating neck pain
A patient with neck pain symptoms will have an initial consultation, which begins with a thorough case history and objective examination. Neurological, osteopathic and orthopaedic tests will be carried out to determine the cause of the neck pain and identify if osteopathic treatment is the appropriate course of action.
Sometimes, further investigation is needed or the consultation finds that the presenting complaint could be better dealt with by one of the other specialists at Broadgate Spine and Joint Clinic. If this is the case, the patient will be referred to the most appropriate practitioner.
However, most cases of neck pain can be treated with osteopathy and it is recommended within both national and international guidelines.
Why neck pain can occur
Typically, neck pain is caused by undue stresses to tissues or structures in the neck.
Problems with the neck’s structures include restricted joints, strained muscles and ligaments, compressed nerves and injured discs. When a tissue is compressed or stretched beyond its physiological limit, this usually leads to pain and inflammation, which in turn may cause the surrounding muscles to spasm or contract. This action is the body’s way of protecting the area from further damage.
The muscles that run parallel with the neck can clamp the neck’s vertebrae together and cause nerve compression, which can lead to symptoms such as pain, pins and needles, numbness and weakness in the arm or hand.
In time, the contraction of the muscles will gradually ease and the neck will heal, but the sufferer is often still left with reduced mobility in the neck due to shortened muscles. While some vertebrae may move well, others will be rigid and the vertebrae that do move can then be strained by day-to-day activities because they are left to do all the work. This is why it is imperative to treat beck problems and balance the spine.
Treating neck pain with osteopathy
Osteopathic techniques can be used to restore normal movement in the neck. Gentle mobilisation of the neck muscles decreases muscle spasms and contractions and stretching allows for a greater range of motion and aids blood flow and circulation, which helps affected tissues to heal.
Using osteopathy, adjustments can also be directly applied to the vertebrae. These are extremely effective in decreasing muscle tone and increasing movement of the joints and once the vertebrae move more effectively, the shortened muscles can then be stretched to restore normal movement in the neck.
Once the neck pain has decreased and movement has been regained, attention can be paid to the posture and regular stretching and strengthening will keep the neck mobile and lower the chances of a relapse.
It can be beneficial to follow osteopathic treatment with exercise and combining the two in this way has recently been shown to be very effective in the treatment of neck pain compared to other commonly used treatments.