Neck Pain Treatments – Active Release, Chiropractic Care and Myofascial Release for Neck Pain and Injury Recovery
Neck pain is a regular part of life for so many Bucks County residents. Whether it’s from a car accident, a ski accident, a contact sport injury, endless hours spent in front of computers, chronic stress or just the natural arthritic changes that occur as we age, chances are that you or someone you know has struggled with nagging neck pain at some point in their lives.
Neck pain can interrupt your life in so many ways, making it hard to turn or tilt your head, preventing you from exercising, interfering with sleep and just making simple and/or fun activities difficult, unenjoyable and even impossible.
So what are the main culprits to this ailment?
Desks and Modern Technology are a Pain In Your Neck!
How many hours do you sit at a desk each day spending time staring down at your smart phone or tablet combined? Take a few seconds and think about it. I don’t know about you but it is disturbing to even try to add up all of the hours, and keep in mind I am on my feet a lot as a sports chiropractor but I still rack up the hours looking down and jutting my head forward. It is estimated that today’s teenagers rack up on average 8 hours of screen time per day.
For individuals who sit for long hours on trains, in cars, at desks and on couches either shifting their head forward to get closer to the desktop computer or laptop, the question has to be asked: what does this do to our bodies.
The basic answer is simple. Modern technology, as beneficial and integral as it is to modern human living, is a pain in the neck, as well as a pain in many other parts of the body. For each inch forward you stick your head out, most of the time not really thinking about it, the relative weight of your head on your neck increases by about 10 pounds. It’s hard to know how far forward your head position might be at any given time on your own but it’s safe to say based on 10+ years of clinical experience in sports chiropractic that it is significant enough to compel clients to come in for treatment in large numbers.
The average human head weighs about 10-12 pounds. The small and somewhat delicate muscles, ligaments, bones, joints, nerves and discs in your neck are where most of the force and tension from that weight goes. This is how the human body has evolved and it seems to have worked pretty well for us, right? But when you look down at your phone to find your favorite song on the train or text your friend, you significantly increase the relative weight of your head on your neck and generate as much as five times the force.
And given how addicted so many are to their devices, this extra force is nearly constant, especially when you take into consideration that this extra force and tension don’t just stop when you look straight or even try to sit up tall. To the contrary, forward head and downward head postures stick with you all day and the increased forces on the neck that these positions create pretty much creates constant wear and tear.
Over the next few decades or even sooner, we will start to see early-onset arthritis and neck issues in teenagers, young adults and perhaps even children due to excessive screen time.
Treatment Options for Neck Pain
There are many treatment options for chronic and acute pain. Which ones are most appropriate depend on the diagnosis, the severity, the current symptoms, treatment goals and preference. Surgery should be your last resort, especially for anything related to the spine.
In addition to the Active Release and chiropractic, exercise is vital. Here is a recent article through the National Institutes of Health demonstrating the superiority of Active Release Technique and neck pain https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4563290/ The muscles, joints and nervous system need to be constantly re-trained and reminded to be in a healthier alignment and to do this you will need to be proactive.
It will be key to modify your head position when at work, while reading your kindle or typing an email. To do this, try putting your laptop or desktop on an elevated platform (even if it’s just books) or simply try holding your arms up higher while on your phone so you’re not staring straight down all the time.
Manual therapies such as Active Release Techniques, Myofascial Release and Sports Massage in general can have a significant impact on neck pain, especially when combined with other medical and injury recovery therapies such as exercise, physical therapy, chiropractic care, medication, injections, rest, ice, heat and surgery.
Here are a few options with a brief description:
Active Release, also commonly known as ART, Active Release Techniques and Active Release Therapy, is a clinical manual therapy specifically designed to treat muscles, tendons, ligaments, joint tissue and nerves. It is a movement-based manual therapy therapy that helps restore range of motion, break up scar tissue, release muscle adhesions, increase blood flow and reduce chronic and acute pain.
A gentle blend of stretching and massage using no oil, Myofascial Release is a relatively slow and non-invasive therapy. It involves sustained pressure to the affected tissue and is beneficial in large part because, by not using oils or cream, a “shearing” affect occurs which allows the tissue to move and slide better. Improved movement and gliding of fascia and muscles takes pressure off of a specific area and reduces the mechanical stress and repetitive micro-trauma that impaired movement leads to.
I usually start with head and neck traction. It’s a great way to warm up the skin, muscles and fascia as well as begin affecting mobility and synovial fluid circulation in the joints. It’s a gentle and relaxing technique that I also use as a transitional movement as well as a valuable assessment tool I repeatedly incorporate in all neck injury recovery treatments.
It is tough for someone who is not trained in physical medicine to determine whether something needs stretched or strengthened. Here are some of the major muscles involved with neck pain with a brief explanation of what needs to be addressed:
- Scalenes – ART and stretched
- SCM – ART and stretched
- Levator Scapulae – ART and stretched
- Upper trap – ART and stretched
- Longus Coli – ART
- Omohyoid – ART
- Middle trap – strengthened
- Rhomboids – ART and strengthened
If you are interested in a simple routine to help with neck pain, please email me and I would be happy to share it with you.
Enjoy the month of October,
Dr. Derek Gearhart