Pain is often difficult to localize and describe. Pain originating in the deep structures of the body such as the muscles and spine is often hard to accurately localize. Muscular pain may have a lag time of minutes to hours after an injury.
Pain stimulation of the upper neck is known to refer pain into the base of the head and may even refer to the forehead. Pain in the base of the head is often an indication to Chiropractors that the cause of the pain is the first two vertebrae in the spine (the atlas and axis).
Pain stimuli in the thoracic spine or middle back can produce sweating, rapid heart rate and a faint feeling.
Pain in the muscles may produce what is often referred to as a “vicious cycle”. In such a vicious cycle and injured muscle experiences spasm which may cause spasm in muscles with common nerve supply. The secondary muscle spasm may be more intense than that of the originally injured muscle. If untreated the cycle may result in chronic and painful myofascial disorders. Often the patterns of pain are related to areas of the spine with abnormal motion. Chiropractic adjustments seek to restore normal motion to the spine and break the vicious cycle of pain and spasm. Myofascial release treatment is a specialized Chiropractic technique that is able to directly treat injured muscles and address scar tissue and trigger points.
Osteoarthritis or arthritis refers to roughening of the joint surfaces, inflammation and point in the joints. In the spine the condition is often called spondylosis. Spondylosis means “vertebrae condition”. Spondylosis is the term applied to arthritis of the joints of the spine by all medical sources and radiologists. Osteoarthritis refers more to the joints of the hand, knee, etc.
One common theory is that spondylosis or osteoarthritis is caused by daily wear and tear on the joints over a long period of time. The wear and tear theory is largely invalid due to the fact that the normal joints of the spine and extremities simply will not wear out with normal use and under normal loads. The joints of the human spine and extremities have been compared to “ice on ice”. Normal joints are highly efficient will last at least as long as the rest of the body.
The role of trauma in osteoarthritis/spondylosis is of interest to the Chiropractor as trauma is the most common agent in the development of this condition.
The high incidence of spondylosis (arthritis) in the neck years after a whiplash injury are highly suggestive of a causal relationship of trauma and arthritis. One study found arthritic changes in whiplash patients at roughly 6 times the non-whiplash population. If persons had suffered loss of consciousness the rate was 10 times the non-whiplash population.
Trauma induced spinal instability is also associated with osteophyte formation. Osteophytes are also known as bone spurs and are often seen on x rays of the neck and lower back.
Neck injuries are one of the most common injuries treated by Chiropractors. Chiropractic treatment of neck pain/ injury involves traction of the joints, myofascial release, and joint mobilization.
Whiplash and neck injuries in sports often cause extreme stress and stretch on the muscles which may have long lasting effects. Often overstretched or strained muscles can cause reduced range of motion, painful trigger points and weakness. In the neck and shoulder such strain of the muscles can lead to pain, numbness and weakness in the arm (known as thoracic outlet syndrome).
Trigger points refer to tender areas of a muscle or a tender knot in the muscle. Active trigger points in injured muscles can refer pain into other areas of the body. Trigger points also effect the ability of the muscle to contract and relax normally and cause pain on motion.
The most effective Chiropractic treatment that addresses trigger points is myofascial release. In myofascial release technique muscles are contracted and relaxed under a selective pressure designed to stretch through the painful trigger point.
Dizziness is a common complaint seen in the Chiropractic office. Dizziness can also result from injuries in contact sports or whiplash injury.
Injury to the muscles of the neck is one cause of vertigo. Overstretch or strain of the muscles of the neck are likely to have this effect. Irritation of the trigger points in the muscles of the neck can also radiate pain into the head or face.
Dizziness and vertigo may also be associated with reduced blood flow and or damage to the inner ear.
The jaw or TMJ may also be associated with vertigo. Chiropractic traction of the jaw and trigger point therapy to the muscles of the jaw is often effective in cases of TMJ.
Short term vertigo after an injury may be caused by damage to the inner ear. In such cases dizziness is associated with movements in head motion.
Some of the most common conditions that Chiropractors treat in relation to whiplash are neck pain and headaches. Shoulder pain is another common condition that may arise secondary to a whiplash.
Often conditions of the shoulder may be aggravated by whiplash. Muscle imbalances and pain causing altered balance of muscles and different postures is a contributing factor.
What many people describe as shoulder pain is pain in the trapezius muscle. The trapezius is often strained in a whiplash and experiences spasm as a result. Strain to the trapezius can cause pain radiating down the back of the neck and upper back and into the area between the shoulder blades. Strained muscle are usually aggravated by stretching or movement of the muscle. Muscle tears usually produce pain that is described as burning.
If pain in the shoulder is related to an injury to the discs of the neck the pain is usually made worse by movements of the neck. Traction is one Chiropractic technique that may provide relief in such conditions. Persons with whiplash disc injuries often find that holding the arm over the head provides pain relief. Pain from disc injuries is often described as sharp and shock like.