Your neck (cervical spine) is made up of 7 bones called vertebra. Between 6 of the vertebra you have discs, which allow for increased flexibility and support. The discs are made of up of an inner jelly-like ‘nucleus’ and an outer fibrous ‘annulus’. The annulus that wraps around the nucleus like a ribbon wrapped around your finger. A cervical disc lesion means that the disc in your neck is injured.
Disc lesions start when the outer fibers of the disc become sprained or frayed. If enough fibers become frayed, this can create weakness. When the disc is compressed, the outer fibers may ‘bulge’ or ‘protrude’ like a weak spot on an inner tube. If the fibers are damaged, the nucleus of the disc may herniate outwards. The spinal cord and nerve roots live directly behind the disc. Bulges that are accompanied by inflammation will likely create neck pain that radiates into your shoulder or arm. If the disc bulge is significant enough it can cause compression of your nerve. This will lead to a loss of your neurological reflexes and muscle weakness.
Surprisingly, cervical disc bulges are present without any symptoms in over half of the adult population. They are also slightly move common in men. Ninety percent of cervical disc problems occur at one of the two lower discs - C6 or C7.
Certain occupations or activities place you at a greater risk. These include: extended periods of sitting, driving or looking down, poor sleep positions, frequent heavy lifting, and smoking. Cervical disc injuries are most common between the ages of 40 to 50, and are less common in children and seniors.
Research has shown that disc injuries may be successfully managed with conservative care like the type we provide. Our first goal is to reduce the causative factors contributing to the disc lesion. Next, we strive to reduce the pain and inflammation that are present. We will show you strategies to take pressure off the disc. Next, we will help you strengthen the surrounding tissues. This will create more tolerance and capacity within those supportive structures. This will help in reducing the likelihood of re-occurrence and developing chronic pain.
Motor vehicle accidents are the leading cause of whiplash. More than 83% of people who are involved in a motor vehicle accident will sustain a whiplash injury.
Whiplash describes what happens when the structures and tissues in the neck are stretched too hard or too far. Much like a rope which frays when it is stretched beyond its capacity.
Risk factors include being struck from behind in a rear-end collision, and being struck by a larger or heavier vehicle. Those with pre-existing arthritis are more likely to develop symptoms. What is fascinating to many patients, is that the amount of visible vehicle damage does not correlate to the amount of injury. In fact, there can be zero visible car damage, and you can still suffer from a whiplash injury. Due to modern shock absorbent bumpers, low speed rear-end impacts minimize car damage. However, rear-end collisions less that 10 km/h routinely give rise to significant symptoms in patients.
After a motor vehicle accident pain may begin immediately, or several days later. Typically, soreness is noticed at the front of your neck, but can fade quickly. Ongoing complaints include; dull and sharp neck pain. Also, centralized pain in your neck that can spread to your shoulders, or between your shoulder blades. Headaches are also very common with these types of neck injuries. Dizziness and TMJ (Jaw) problems are also frequent complaints. Although rest can help reduce your symptoms, it will often lead to stiffness and persistent pain if proper treatment is not sought out.
After a whiplash injury, ‘scar tissue’ replaces the injured healthy tissue. Scar tissue is less elastic than healthy tissue. This may lead to developing chronic pain and arthritis. Over half of those injured can have symptoms up to a year after the accident. This is why it is important to seek early and appropriate treatment. If you are riding with others as well, it is possible that they were also injured. Every passenger who may have whiplash after a motor vehicle accident would benefit from being examined as soon as possible.
The treatment we provide at Capilano Chiropractic Clinic will help you recover from your injury as quickly as possible. We work with you to get you feeling great again. Our first step is to reduce pain and inflammation. Next, we help improve the quality of motion between the muscles and joints that have been injured. We assist you in building the strength back into the injured tissues. This will cause the risk of relapse to become significantly reduced.
We understand that each whiplash injury is different. This is why we customize our treatment to meet your needs. We strive to empower. We give you the tools you need to resolve your injury as quickly as possible.
How You Can Help Yourself
Depending on the severity of the injury you may need to limit heavy activity for a while, but remain active in a limited fashion. By significantly limiting light activities, you may actually delay your recovery. Try to ‘act as usual’ and resume normal daily activities as soon as possible. Avoid heavy lifting and take frequent breaks from prolonged activity (especially overhead activity). If possible, avoid wearing heavy headgear (helmet, hardhat) to reduce the strain on your neck. It is also important to remember pain is a normal reaction to an injury. Pain should be your guide when returning to any kind of activity following an injury. You should only work to the point of pain, and not into pain. Remembering this detail will speed your recovery and your return to normal activities.
A normal functioning neck is similar to a large spring that moves freely in every direction. When one of the joints in your neck becomes stuck, or restricted in its motion, it is like having a section of that spring welded together. The spring may still move as a whole, but a part of it is no longer functioning.
How do They Develop
Joint restrictions can develop in many ways. They can occur following accidents or injuries, repetitive strains, and even from poor or awkward postures.
Joint restrictions give rise to the self-perpetuating cycle of discomfort. They can cause swelling and inflammation, which triggers muscular guarding. This can lead to more restrictions. The spine functions as a unit, rather than in isolated pieces. So, a joint restriction in one area may lead to ‘compensatory’ problems in another area. Think of a rowboat with multiple oarsmen on each side. When one rower quits, the others are under more stress and can become overworked. Long-standing joint restrictions are also thought to result in arthritis. This is similar to the way a slightly misaligned wheel on your car causes premature wear on the tire.
Joint restrictions most commonly cause :
- Local tenderness and discomfort
- Decreased Range of Motion
- Pain with movement
- Pain traveling into shoulders and upper back
- Jaw Problems
As we age, the discs and joints in our neck will often start to wear and become thinner over time. This leads to a cycle of arthritic changes. This may include bone spurring and narrowing of the openings where our nerves exit the spine. Sometimes this can cause the nerves to become ‘pinched’ in these narrowed openings. This can result in pain, numbness, or tingling into your arm along the nerve pathway.
This issue is very common, affecting half of the population by age 40, and up to 85% of the population by age 60. Because of how common this condition is, researchers suggest that it is a natural part of the aging process. Some consider it to be the ‘grey hair’ of the spine. In fact, research has found that ‘disc degeneration’ is present in people equally with pain and people without pain. Further research on this topic suggests it is more likely the symptoms are due to another cause. These other causes include joint restriction and muscular tightness. These can occur before and after disc and joint degeneration develops.
- Pain or numbness in your neck, arm or shoulders
- Neck stiffness
- Limited range of motion in your neck
- Grinding, or a ‘gravel like’ sound, when you move your neck
There are many strategies available to help reduce the pain caused by arthritis. Avoiding prolonged reading with your head down. Avoiding sustained positions with your head rotated, bent to the side or looking up. Avoiding positions that cause an increase in radiating pain. Avoid high impact activities when they cause an increase in pain.
Regular exercise is very helpful. Walking, water aerobics and yoga have been shown to help symptoms associated with arthritic changes. A healthy diet will help reduce the chronic low-grade inflammation.