If you have neck and upper back pain, you’re not alone. About 10 to 20 percent of adults suffer from neck or upper back pain. The fallout from suffering from either of these conditions can really affect the quality of your life. This kind of pain can decrease your mobility, interfere with everyday function, keep you home from work, interrupt your sleep, limit your social activities, and cause depression.
Neck pain occurs in the nerves and tissue that surround the seven vertebrae in your neck, called your cervical vertebrae. These cervical vertebrae hold up your head, and are relatively unprotected, making your neck prone to injury from a number of causes.
Your upper back begins where your neck ends, and encompasses the 12 vertebrae below your neck that support your ribs. These are called the thoracic vertebrae, and upper back pain can occur in or near any part of your thoracic spine.
There are numerous causes of both neck and back pain. One of the most common causes, which is increasing steadily is poor posture. Changes in technology have had a huge impact on our posture as a whole. Days spent looking at a computer screen, slouching, and repeatedly looking down at a phone has created biomechanical changes that raise your risk of having neck or back pain. Other causes include:
- Poor muscle tone, overuse, or improper lifting
- Accidents, whiplash injuries, trauma, and fractures
- Arthritis and associated bone spurs
- Degeneration of the vertebral bones, associated with stressors on the structures that support your neck and upper back, some that are more prevalent as we age
- Disc problems, such as herniation, rupture, or a compressed nerve
- Obesity, which can tax your spine and discs
- Muscle strain, pulls, tightness, or spasms
- Ligament sprain
- Osteoporosis or associated compression fractures
The symptoms that you may have with neck pain include a stiff neck, sharp or shooting pain, headaches, and tingling or numbness that radiates down your arms. Symptoms of upper back pain can present as dull and chronic or sharp stabbing pain. It can be limited to just one spot or it may radiate to a larger area. You may also feel a chronic achiness or stiffness anywhere in your upper back.
With both your neck and back, when the pain appears suddenly, it is acute pain. It can be the result of an accident or an injury. Acute pain occurs quickly, and in some cases is relieved quickly. Pain that lasts for several weeks or months is considered to be chronic. Acute pain that had a sudden onset, may become chronic pain if it remains for a long period of time.
Treating Neck and Back Pain at BodaHealth
Our philosophy at BodaHealth is to understand the underlying cause of your pain, so we are not just treating symptoms alone. This involves a thorough understanding of your overall health, as well as the nature of your current symptoms. Using natural therapies, our goal is to provide our neck and upper back pain patients with pain relief, combined with options for rehabilitation and prevention of further painful episodes. In other words, our goal is to make your pain go away and stay away. In order to accomplish that, we are able to help patients suffering from neck and upper back pain by offering the following treatments and strategies:
Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Acupuncture is well-known for its ability to treat pain. While a great deal of research has been compiled on the effectiveness of acupuncture in treating low back pain or back pain in general, not as many studies have focused on treating neck pain with acupuncture. However, the research that exists does support the use of acupuncture, as well as the role of Chinese herbs in treating neck disorders. Acupuncture works because it decreases localized inflammation, it mobilizes your body’s pain-relieving system, and it improves circulation to the affected area to help support the healing process. In addition, acupuncture can effectively treat emotional health conditions, such as stress, anxiety, and depression—all of which may play a role in neck and upper back pain.
In addition to acupuncture and herbal medicine, Traditional Chinese medicine has a lot to offer patients with neck and upper back pain. Treatments, such as cupping, Gua Sha, electro-stimulation or microcurrent, heat therapy, and Chinese massage called Tui Na are all appropriate in treating this kind of pain.
Osteopathy. Because its basis for both diagnosis and treatment is in resolving musculoskeletal imbalances, osteopathic medicine is effective in treating both acute and chronic neck and upper back pain. Our osteopathic practitioner will treat your entire body, in addition to concentrating on your neck or upper back. Through the hands-on use of gentle pressure, stretching, and resistance, our osteopath will work to restore altered biomechanics and improve circulation as a way to not only relieve your pain, but to prevent further problems in the future.
Shock Wave Therapy. This is the use of pulsed acoustic waves to reduce your pain and stimulate your body to heal. The acoustic shockwaves are delivered through a hand-held device that’s a part of a machine that generates the waves. Your practitioner is able to control the timing and intensity of the waves through the machine and through the choice of treatment piece that’s being used. Shock wave therapy can be an effective treatment for muscular, tendon, and joint pain. It’s an excellent adjunctive therapy to acupuncture, cupping and injection treatment, as well as for patients with resistant conditions.
Injection Therapy. Injection treatments can be helpful for neck and upper back pain that have occurred from a variety of sources. The substance being used, depth of injection, and technique will depend on your underlying condition. For pain related to joint or tendon problems, a natural substance called hyaluronic acid may be used. Hyaluronic acid is made by your own body but this production decreases as we age. For muscle issues, painful knots, or trigger points, a combination of vitamins, procaine, and other substances may be the best choice. And for nerve pain, an injection treatment called perineural injection treatment or PIT with a common solution of 5% dextrose and sterile water may be shallowly injected for best results.
Naturopathy. Through the use of nutrition, supplementation, and lifestyle strategies, naturopathy may be used to help treat your neck or upper back pain. Our naturopathic practitioners will assess your overall health, and determine any nutritional or digestive imbalances you may have, as well any toxicities that may be present and impairing your ability to heal completely. The role of naturopathy in treating neck and upper back pain is to decrease inflammation, support the healing process, and restore your health as a way to prevent future occurrences.
Rehabilitative Services. At BodaHealth, we offer a number of therapeutic options to enhance your rehabilitation from neck or upper back pain. Whether your pain is from an injury, poor posture, or structural imbalances, we are able to help. Our practitioners offer one-on-one Clinical Pilates sessions, with the goal of improving muscle balance and core strength and a focus on your neck or upper back. We also have Therapeutic Exercise practitioners and Kinesiologists on staff who are able to help you regain strength and flexibility in your neck and upper back. At BodaHealth, we are also happy to be able to offer our patients the services of an Exercise Physiologist. They are able to assess your posture, biomechanics, gait, and ergonomics in order to help you regain healthy function, as well as to prevent future painful episodes.
Therapeutic Massage and Fascial Stretch. Many people carry their stress in their upper back and necks, causing stiffness, pain, and headaches. Therapeutic massage is able to offer double duty in that it can loosen up tight and injured muscles while at the same time, helping to relieve stress. Fascial stretching is a hands-on therapy that targets the connective tissue between your muscles, organs, and all other parts of your body. Fascial stretching works to release tightness or adhesions in the fascial tissue, and to restore function and mobility. Therapeutic massage and fascial stretch are both great adjunctive therapies to any of the pain relief strategies listed above.
At BodaHealth, our goal for patients who are suffering from neck or upper back pain is to relieve the pain, improve mobility, and restore function. We offer a wide variety of treatments in order to offer the best results for each individual patient’s needs. If you are currently struggling with neck or upper back pain, give us a call for a free consultation to find out how we can help you.