A Pain in the Neck
Chiropractors see a lot of low back pain, but neck pain is a very close second.
Whether it was caused by a whiplash injury in a car accident or sleeping fun, cervical sprains/strains are something commonly treated in my office.
Let's break down the diagnosis first. Cervical is the neck, the region that consists of the first 7 vertebrae of the spine, base of the skull and the corresponding muscles. Sprains are damage to ligaments, and strains are damage to muscles and tendons.
These types of injuries are graded, either on a numerical scale of 1-3 or mild, moderate, severe.
Mild or grade 1 consists of some swelling and tenderness, but no bruising. The joints are stable, most orthopaedic tests are negative, and there is only some mild pain at the end range of motion.
Moderate or grade 2 is the next level up, with more swelling/tenderness, mild to moderate instability, and fibre damage that can range anywhere from 11-90%. This is where most of these injuries fall, just due to the fact that it is such a wide range of possible damage.
Severe, or grade 3 is the most serious of the categories. There is deep bruising and dwelling, and we have to rule out complete instability or fractures. There can be complete tears of multiple ligaments, and barely any range of motion present.
These injuries can be caused from direct trauma like falls and accidents, overuse and postural issues or a sudden, unguarded movement.
Depending on what I find in an examine, that will determine if I think we need an x-ray or some other form of imaging. Otherwise, we jump into treatment!
In the acute (initial) phase, we work to control pain and inflammation with ice and pain free range of motion. Massage, stretching and mobilizations of the joints are things I will integrate in office. TENS and IFC (electromodalities) can also be helpful for pain reduction.
A rehabilitation exercise program will eventually be the primary form of care, to return to full function.
A reminder if you have a condition like this, even though the pain may be reduced with treatment, it can take up to 6+ months for full tissue remodelling, so continue with the care plans provided by your therapists to ensure complete healing and reduce your chances of reoccurrence or chronic pain!