Your neck holds up your head, which weighs 12 pounds on average, and think of all the movements it must make. The neck, including the cervical spine, is vulnerable to injury.
The most common causes of neck pain are:
- Muscle strain or tension.
- Whiplash. This injury commonly associated with vehicular accidents. It occurs when the neck jerks back and forth violently and ligaments holding tiny neck bones together get overly stretched. Other traumatic injuries can cause fractures and even paralysis.
- Pinched nerve or slipped disk. This neck pain involves the nerves, which may be “pinched” or pressed by a disk bulging between two vertebrae or a muscle spasm. Besides pain, you may feel numbness or weakness in your upper extremities.
- Osteoarthritis. This type of arthritis is associated with aging and can affect your spine. Other age-related ailments that can cause neck pain include spinal stenosis (a narrowing of the bony canal containing the spinal cord and its nerves) and cervical disk degeneration.
- Rheumatoid arthritis. This type of arthritis can ruin joints in the neck and cause pain, stiffness, and aching.
Alternative Medicine for Neck Pain:
Chiropractors do not prescribe medication or perform surgery. Chiropractors use various approaches but generally perform adjustments to align the spine. A practitioner adjusts the patient’s neck with his hands to improve mobility, restore range of motion, and sometimes, increase muscle movement. Besides being able to turn and tilt their heads better, patients generally notice less pain, soreness, and stiffness.
Side effects include headaches, fatigue, and pain in the treated area.
A very effective hands-on approach to neck pain is massage therapy. Massage therapy, which usually lasts 30 to 60 minutes per session, works by relaxing the soft tissues and increasing blood flow and oxygen to the muscles. Popular types of massage include:
- Shiatsu (rhythmic massage to get “qi,” or energy, flowing)
- Deep tissue (deep pressure on muscle layers)
- Trigger point or pressure point (focuses on specific knots in the muscles)
- Swedish (kneading the muscles and adjusting the joints)
The most studied technique of acupuncture, an ancient Asian practice, involves inserting thin needles, either manually or electrically manipulated, into the skin. Several studies have shown that acupuncture is helpful for those with chronic neck pain, providing moderate improvements in levels of pain.
Biofeedback and Hypnosis
Biofeedback and hypnosis are types of alternative medicine called mind-body medicine. Both are effective in controlling neck pain.
- Biofeedback uses visual or auditory cues to help the patient relax and loosen up muscles.
- Hypnosis involves entering a state of altered consciousness. Learning self-hypnosis may allow patients to temporarily forget about their pain and improve sleep.
There are many solutions to treating chronic neck pain and in some ways alternative medicine offers a gentle and effective solution to this vexing problem.