The Amazing Neck
The neck is such a vital part of our body that if its functions are interrupted for even a few seconds we lose consciousness and begin to die. (That is why since ancient times decapitation, strangulation, and hanging have been such popular ways of doing people in.)
The neck houses blood vessels, nerves, the thyroid and parathyroid glands, the larynx, the esophagus, the trachea, the brainstem, the spinal cord, the spinal column, and the meninges while at the same time somehow gracefully balancing the head and permitting it to turn, tilt, and bend freely up and down without damaging its’ vital “occupants.”
The Cervical Spine
Cervix is the Latin word for neck (meaning a constricted area), and it is used to describe various neckline parts of the body. For example, the neck of the uterus is called the cervix, the urinary bladder has a cervix, the spinal cord has one, and our small neck bones are called cervical vertebrae.
All mammals have the same number of cervical vertebrae. This means that the giraffe, the tiny mouse, and you yourself all have seven neck vertebrae and they are numbered C-1 to C-7. C-1 holds the head and is also called the atlas after the ancient god who held the earth on his shoulders.
When stacked up the neck vertebrae form a tube through which the spinal cord travels. Protection of the spinal cord is the spinal column’s main job: an injury to the spinal cord can cause instant paralysis or death.
The vertebrae are connected to each other by discs that help give the neck its shape or curve, they are also connected by ligaments, and tendons. Between the vertebrae are openings (intervertebral foramina) in which nerves, blood vessels, lymphatic vessels, fat, and connective tissues are found.
With all of the neck’s complexity it should come as no surprise that neck problems are common. They may develop suddenly from a trauma like whiplash, a fall, or other accident, or slowly as a result of a spinal nerve stress, spinal imbalance, emotional stress, or poor work habits.
Damaged or irritated nerves in the neck can cause vision problems, dizziness, ringing in the ears, headaches, nasal problems, facial pain, and tongue and throat problems.
Other neck problems can cause pain, discomfort, and reduced movement of the neck, head shoulder, arm wrist, hand, or fingers. Neck fracture, dislocation, or severe tissue damage can be fatal if not given emergency medical. care, but most other neck problems, although not life-threatening, can lead to other health problems if not handled properly.
Pain in the neck can be caused by irritation, inflammation, injury, or infection. According to one authority, pain in the neck, shoulder, arm, hand, or head “most frequently results from irritation of cervical nerve roots in the region of the intervertebral foramen, encroachment of the vascular supple as it courses through the vertebral canal, or invasion of the cord in the spinal canal.”
Disc Degeneration and Herniation
Disc herniation (or rupture) occurs when the disc between two vertebrae either breaks off and irritates nearby tissues or its soft center oozes into places where it should not be. Disc herniation is relatively rare.
Disc degeneration, however, is far a more common cause of pain, nerve root, and spinal cord irritation. Although many doctors tell their patients that the cause of disc degeneration is age, age alone cannot be blamed for the condition because it can be found even in young children.
However, the most common causes of disc degeneration are years of spinal imbalance; spinal nerve stress; and physical trauma or emotional stress.
Let us suppose that one day you carried a bowling ball around for the entire day, but instead of carrying it closely at your side you held it a little distance form your body. You’d get tired very fast.
It’s the same with your head. When it’s properly balanced that’s fine, but if it’s held even a little off center you will start to suffer from fatigue as well as stress on your neck.
The neck has a normal lordotic (forward) curve, but the spinal curve may reduce, become “military” (straight), or even become kyphotic (curved in the wrong direction) if unhealthy.
Over time such changes in the spine may be accompanied by arthritic changes in the vertebrae such as lipping or spurring (boney growths); disc thinning or degeneration; or deterioration of muscles, ligaments, and other structures.
Lipping, spurring, and other irregularities of bone (osteoarthritis) do not in themselves constitute a disease but are rather defense mechanisms that arise to stabilize an off-balance spine.
Recent research has shown that chiropractic care can reverse some of the effects of osteoarthritis-something that had previously been considered impossible.
The standard approach
The standard approach to neck pain is medication: painkillers, muscle relaxers, tranquilizers, and rest and immobilization. If the pain becomes chronic an orthopedic surgeon may be consulted.
We recommend that a patient should not consent to anything as drastic as neck surgery without first consulting another healer-in particular, a chiropractor.
Traction may be prescribed and interestingly enough, this may constitute a tacit endorsement of the chiropractic approach of releasing pressure on the nerves, joints, and formina (openings) through which the nerves, etc. travel.
The Role of the Chiropractor
What chiropractic spinal care does is to counter the effect of stress and unnatural wear and tear by reducing spinal nerve stress and restoring proper movement to the spinal column.
When the spinal bones are off center, the small openings through which the nerves travel may become narrower causing irritation to the cervical nerve roots, and may also cause pressure upon the spinal cord
Chiropractic and Neck Injury
Without chiropractic spinal care a neck injury might continue to cause silent damage for decades before the problem is recognized. By that time it may be too late for a complete recovery.
Everyone with a spine needs to have it checked periodically by a chiropractor. Just as a periodic dental checkup is necessary to keep your teeth healthy, so a chiropractic spinal checkup is necessary to ensure a nervous system that is free from spinal nerve stress, permitting you to experience greater healing and well-being.