What’s a Normal Headache?
This is truly one of the more frustrating things that I hear is when someone tells me about their “normal headache”.
From a physiology standpoint, it would seem silly for the human body to make head pain a normal part of body’s day to day functions.
How do you know what type of headache you have? What type of treatments are best for each headache? We’ll break all of that down today.
These are the most common headaches, and what most people classify as a “Normal Headache”. This type is known for having a band like compression around the temples, forehead, or back of the head. Many people call this a stress headache because it is exacerbated by a person’s response to stressful situations. These headaches are typically mechanical in nature (tight muscles, associated with neck pain)
There is a lot of variation in the duration and intensity of this type of headache. Even though the pain can become severe (as high as a 8 or 9/10 on the pain scale), the lack of neurological symptoms imply that the nature of the headache has a different origin.
Most people control these headaches with massage, over the counter medications, and conventional chiropractic to provide short-term relief. Things like Yoga and stress management techniques are also popular treatments.
A severe headache is NOT the same as a migraine. It’s important to recognize this because the nature of a migraine headache goes beyond mechanical dysfunction. Migraines are characterized by abnormalities in blood flow to the brain, which creates some distinct neurological symptoms. Most migraines feature:
Sensitivity to light
Aura and other visual disturbances
Pins and needle sensation
Post headache hangover
Treatments usually go beyond over the counter medications.
Of course there are several other types of headaches. Things like cluster headaches, sinus headaches, and trigeminal nerve pain fall into the spectrum of common headaches. Another emerging class of headache include those that come from chronic use of pain medication, which has led to a search for new drugs or non-drug therapies to try to manage this common debilitating problem.
The truth is, because headaches are experienced differently by so many people, it might be best to figure out where headaches have a commonality.
The Craniocervical Junction and the Trigeminal Nucleus
The craniocervical junction is a fancy term for where the head meets the neck. A tremendous amount of research is going on in this part of the body because of how big a role it plays on the brain and overall neurology. One of the things that they have found is that this part of the body has a big influence on a part of the spinal cord called the trigeminal nucleus.
The trigeminal nucleus is where the nerve cells exist that provide innervation for head, neck, face, jaw, the brain’s outer covering, and the blood vessels of the brain. Here’s a surprising fact:
The brain itself does not feel pain
When you feel pain in your head, it is coming from brain’s outer covering called the meninges, and the blood vessels. All of these structures feed into the trigeminal nucleus and this piece of anatomy tells our brain what it should feel.
In the world of Chiropractic we find that symmetry of the cervical spine matters. When you lose your normal structural symmetry of the spine, then the trigeminal nucleus is less likely to work properly. That’s why headache patients usually respond so quickly to this unique type of care.
Of course it may not help every person with headaches. The truth is that headaches can be affected by tumors, chemicals, and even food for some select cases. However, a gross majority of the population’s headaches are likely secondary to a structural shift of the head and neck.
Pain after a car accident can be very strange and confusing. Take a look at
these examples and tell me if this reminds you of a situation that you or
someone you know.
Person A: Healthy and fit 37-year-old man in a car and
gets hit at 45 mph+. The impact drives his car into the car in front
causing extensive damage.
Person B: Healthy and fit 29-year old woman. Sitting in
line in a parking lot when another car runs into the back of her at 10 mph or
less. Minimal damage to the car and wore a seat belt.
Which one do you think had a worse whiplash injury and had pain immediately
and which do you think just had soreness that they wanted to get checked
Both had substantial biomechanical changes on their x-ray and MRI, but only
one had a significant amount of pain immediately after the incident.
If you guessed that Person B with the parking lot bumper tap had the most
pain, then you win! Congratulations!
The Deceptive Nature of Pain
Pain is one of medicine’s greatest tricksters. To this day, researchers and
scientists don’t have a strong grasp on the nature pain disorders.
Why is it tricky? Because the pain someone feels isn’t
necessarily related to the amount of damage in the body. Patients
with fibromyalgia have crippling pain despite not having any visible damage to
Pain is the most important factor to a patient, but it can be the most
deceptive factor to a clinician. When it comes to taking care of people after
an accident, we have to measure a patient’s function
regardless of their pain status.
Happens to the Neck After an Accident?
Insurance companies will only
consider it an accident-related whiplash injury if you see a doctor within
14 days of the accident. So if you have no pain after the accident or the pain
wasn’t bad enough to drive you to a physician until day 15, then you didn’t
have a whiplash (I know how silly it sounds).
But going back to the previous
example, we know that both Patients A and B had biomechanical flaws as a result
from trauma to the spine. Despite the fact that there were 2 very different
accidents and 2 different pain statuses, there are similarities in what can
happen to the neck even after the smallest collisions. Take a look at the video
below which simulates an accident less than 10 mph.
Happens to the Neck in an Accident?
After watching the video, you can
get the impression that a collision at just 5-7 mph causes rapid movement of
the head and neck.
Despite the fact that your body is
encased by a 2 ton metal box, it’s easy to see that even though the vehicle
stops moving, there is still a transfer of energy into the body. When you’re
wearing your seat belt, it causes a rapid deceleration of your body, but your
head will continue to move forward and backward very rapidly.
In fact, a large enough force to the
neck can actually produce a concussion even if there’s not direct contact to
the head! These accidents would need somewhere around 90 G’s of force to the
While that would cease to be a small
accident, the smaller 10 mph accidents can produce 3-5 G’s of force which is
enough to damage the tissues of the neck. The way your head accelerates and
decelerates can put 3-6 G’s of force into the cervical spine. This force gets
transferred into the ligaments, muscles, discs, and joints of the neck more
than any other piece of anatomy.
While the body can tolerate large
amounts of force in brief periods, a large amount of force applied to a small
region of anatomy as seen in a car accident can damage the tissues of the neck.
Ligaments are like the rubber bands
of the spine. They can be stretched, but once they stretch too far, they can’t
go back to normal again. As ligaments are damaged, scar tissue is used as a
patch, but it’s not as functional as the stuff you were built with.
Just like when you sprained your
ankle as a kid and that ankle never worked the same, damage to ligaments of
your neck can happen the same way. Fortunately, true sprains of the neck take a
lot of force and don’t happen with most accidents.
When muscle works beyond its
capacity, or gets stretched beyond its end range, it forms small tears within
the muscle belly. That’s why there’s no consensus as to whether you’re better
off knowing about a coming accident and bracing, or if you’re better off being
Either way, damage to the muscle
tissue can happen depending on the nature of the collision.
Muscle strains can be painful, but
they can and do heal with time. Strain to muscle tissue is one of the most
common sources of pain from whiplash injuries and resolve well with
chiropractic and exercise.
Accidents are one of the most common
ways that people under 30 can suffer herniated discs in the spine. When the
force of an accident overcomes the resistance of the disc material, small tears
in the disc can result in the inner fluid spilling into the spinal canal.
Sometimes this results in a pinched
nerve, but most of the time it does not. A disc problem doesn’t have to be a
big problem. Many people have disc damage and have no idea because it’s not
The muscles, ligaments, discs, and
nerves of the neck help dictate the Structural Positioning of the spine. The
force of an accident can deform one or all of these tissues leading to abnormal
positioning of the head and neck.
This leads to abnormal neurological
input to the brain and what manifests as poor posture (slouching, head tilt, antalgic
lean). While poor posture is not the problem that needs to be treated, it’s an
objective sign of a nervous system is operating at less than its full capacity.
That It’s Not About Pain
Remember at the beginning of the
article we talked about how pain can be deceptive. The reason I wanted to point
that out is because you can experience damage to all of the above structures
and not feel an immediate onset of pain. Pain is just tricky like that.
Whether you feel immediate pain or
not, your neck should always be evaluated even after minor accidents because it
gives the earliest and best opportunity to correct a silent problem.
1. Significant injuries occur at low-speeds.
2. Women suffer greater injuries than men because they have less strength in their neck muscles.
3. Early mobilization is critical. Use of a cervical collar actually gives worse results than no treatment at all. Immobilization following injury causes muscle wasting and loss of strength that significantly delays recovery. Corticosteroids damage articular cartilage & decrease collagen strength & repair. Early mobilization improves healing & repair of bone, cartilage, ligaments, & tendons. It also improves joint proprioception, which helps to prevent early joint degeneration.
4. Most whiplash injuries are occult and cannot be identified on conventional imaging such as x-ray, MRI, or CT scans.
5. The peak inflammation associated with whiplash is located around the C2 vertebra and is the most common origination of headache symptoms. The C2/C3 facet joint in particular is the cause of cervicogenic headache 53% of the time.
6. The severity of vehicle damage is not predictive of injury or outcome. Stiffer vehicles actually increase the probability of long-term consequences because the forces get focused on the head & neck. A more accurate predictor of outcome is if the injured person experiences acute neck pain within the same day of injury. These people are 3x more likely to report chronic neck pain 7 years later. Also of note, younger people generally have a better prognosis & require less treatment.
7. Upper Cervical spine is most injured when head & neck are in flexed & rotated position at time of impact (e.g. looking at cell phone or child in back seat).
8. Whiplash patients are 5x more likely to suffer from chronic neck pain compared to control population.
9. Whiplash patients are at a significantly increased risk for premature disc degeneration. Most common site of disc injury is C5/C6.
10. Cervical range of motion is the most important indicator of physical impairment. It has proven to be 90% accurate in diagnosing people with whiplash symptoms. Flexion and extension are usually the most impaired movements.
11. Over 90% of whiplash patients under chiropractic care showed notable improvement over a 6 month period of care. Chiropractic treatment has been shown to be 5x more effective than Celebrex or Vioxx within 9 weeks of treatment. Chiropractic care has also been shown to have a 2x greater success rate than standard medical care, and a significantly higher success rate than Physical Therapy. Some measured markers include less work absences and less reliance on pain medications. Passive joint motion is superior to active exercise therapy.
12. In order to get the best therapeutic outcome, treatment must be initiated within the first 3 months following whiplash injury. Recommended guidelines for acute or sub-acute recovery with treatment ranges from 2 months to 2 years, with a mean of 7 months. An appropriate initial treatment frequency is 2-3 x per week for the initial 10 weeks of care.
Migraine headaches are among the most debilitating and dreadful neurological problems that exist. They may not be fatal, but the effect on someone’s quality of life can be dramatic. Imagine having days where the sight of light cripples you. Imagine having terrible nausea, and a constant pounding in your head so bad that you wish that someone would just cut the darn thing off your neck. Imagine that pain lasting for hours or even days at a time.
You probably already know that feeling, and you’ve almost certainly been in the same room as someone going through a migraine attack. Fortunately, most people experience a migraine on rare occasion. However, there are those among us that experience these terrible headaches several times a month, and others even experience them on a DAILY basis.
This is the typical life of a chronic migraine patient in my office. Many times these patients have seen several headache specialists. They’ve seen the best neurologists that the Mayo Clinic and Cleveland Clinic have to offer, and have been through every MRI and brain scan available. They’ve tried several different medication regiments, altered their diets, and spend their lives in fear of triggers like meat, wine, and sometimes caffeine.
Many have even tried alternative therapies like acupuncture and conventional chiropractic with no change.
When they finally sit down and speak with me, they’ve been suffering for years, and almost numb to the fact that they have constant pain in the head. Some look a little pale, others need the lights off in the office, and some even come in wearing sun glasses. All of them are a little doubtful and skeptical that their condition can be cured.
Less Focus on Cure, More Focus on Cause
When most people walk into a doctor’s office with an ailment, what they are most often searching for is a cure. Though migraines are terribly common, and have been around for centuries, a cure has been elusive for the millions of patients suffering on a daily basis. Over the counter migraine medications are usually a first line of treatment, followed by prescription medications. There is also a focus on removing triggers from a person’s life like chocolate, caffeine, and certain scents/perfumes.
The truth is that headaches (especially migraines) cannot be treated as a simplistic disease that is the same in all people. Headaches are a dynamic entity with causes that are multi-factorial. Instead of looking at a migraine as a disease entity, it should be seen as a symptom of a neurophysiological process gone haywire.
The Trigeminocervical Complex: The Pain Gate Keeper of the Head/Neck
Don’t get hung up on the terminology, the name is not important for the casual reader. It is important to understand that near the top part of your spinal cord. In the area surrounded by your top 3 neck vertebra is a very important bundle of nerve cells. These specific nerve cells filter incoming signals from the outer covering of the brain known as meninges. They also filter incoming signals from the blood vessels of the brain, as well as signals that come from the neck.
You see, the brain does not have any receptors that trigger pain. It’s kind of crazy to think about, but it’s true. However, the outer protective covering of the brain, and the blood vessels are very pain sensitive. When the receptors from these structures get set off, then a cascade of events can take place leading to the blood vessels in the brain opening up and becoming inflamed.
It’s important that we have ‘filters’ like the trigeminocervical complex around to make sure that not every pain signal gets to the brain. In that way, it acts like a gatekeeper. If it let every pain signal through, you would be in a state of pain without end.
So what went wrong with the built-in gate keeper of pain to the brain?
The normal alignment and movement of the head and neck serve as a buffer to pain signals that go into the gate keeper. When you lose the normal alignment, several things can happen.
Blood flow in and out of the brain is compromised
Inflammatory molecules stay in the brain’s blood supply longer
Muscles and ligaments of the neck misfire
Low grade inflammation persists in the joints of the neck
Small muscles in the neck may pull against the brain’s outer covering
When this happens, you have an environment where the trigeminocervical nucleus can get overloaded with pain signals without the buffer of signals from normal head and neck movement. All of a sudden, a seemingly harmless trigger can send someone with a tendency towards migraines can be sent in a downward spiral of a pounding headache.
Correction not Cure
Our focus is on correcting the Structural positioning rather than curing migraine headaches. The truth is that Structural Correction has benefits that go beyond treating or curing a specific illness or disease. Correction of Spinal Displacement does one thing, and only one thing:
It mobilizes the self-healing, self-restoring potential within your own body.
If we believe that our bodies were meant to be healthy, pain-free, and vibrant, then we must only find what is inhibiting the body’s self-healing potential.
“Doc, I know that you can help me get better, but what can I do on my own to keep this problem from coming back again?”
Almost everyone who comes to my office want to know what they can do to protect their neck from shifting into a bad position again, and one of the most important things someone can do to protect their neck is to create an optimal position for sleep.
Why is sleep important? Aside from the obvious benefits it has on mood, energy, healing, and overall longevity, the way we sleep also impacts the structural integrity of the spine. Just think about it, most of us spend almost 1/3 of our lives sleeping, and that time is often spent in one of a few postures.
In fact, I’ve seen numerous patients tell me that their problem began upon waking, or that they think that their problem began because they slept funny. The fact is that a prolonged period in a structurally poor position can affect the neck and affect the neurovascular tissues that travel through the neck. This can lead to Secondary Conditions like torticollis, neck pain, headaches, and back problems.
So how do we protect our neck and the nerves that pass through it? These tips should get you off on the right foot.
There are 3 primary positions, and sub variations around that.
Stomach Sleeping – Avoid it:
If you haven’t been told already, stomach sleeping without a specialized pillow can put your neck in too much twist in your neck.
Just try this. Turn your head to your right. Now keep it there for an hour.
I bet that sounds pretty terrible. Now think about how that must feel to have your neck sitting like that for 6-8 hours by the time you wake up.
Stomach sleeping also puts the spine in a hyper-extended position which can also lead to back pain on rising.
Side sleeping is a position where almost anyone can get their spine into a neutral position. It allows thelumbar, thoracic, and cervical spine to line up in one plane when the correct pillows are used.
A pillow between bent knees helps keep the pelvis neutral, while a head pillow should be high enough to support the neck, but not be so high that it pushes the neck upwards like you see on the right.
Side sleeping can cause shoulder pain on the side of the low shoulder. This can be corrected by laying on the shoulder blade rather than the arm itself.
Sleeping on your back is probably the easiest way to protect your neck. However, it is associated with higher incidences of snoring and sleep apnea. Back sleeping can also be excruciating for someone suffering from acute low back pain. If this is the case for you, then a side sleeper may be your best resort.
What Pillow Do I use?
EVERYONE wants to know about pillows. It’s almost like they’re looking to justify buying $100 pillow as long as it’s approved by their doctor.
What’s the best brand? Does it need to have contours? What should it be made of? Water? Foam? Feathers?
While I do make specific recommendations for my patients in the office, the truth is that the brand and material matter far less than what the pillow is looking to accomplish.
Pillows should comfortably support the structure of your spine. If your head feels jammed or you feel too extended, then you are not getting the necessary support.
Any conversation about investing in a pillow should involve measurements of your head and neck so that your pillow fits your specific anatomy (it keeps your spine inline when lying down). The material should be hypoallergenic and supportive for long term use. That will usually leave feather based pillows out of the conversation, which they are shown to increase discomfort in pain patients.
Side sleepers – Side sleeping puts your shoulder distance between the head and the bed. Alarger pillow with firmer material is best to support the head and reduce cervical strain.
Back sleepers – Sleeping on your back puts a small distance between the head and the bed. A thinner pillow is usually helpful here. However, if you have severe Anterior Head Syndrome, than a flat pillow may be very uncomfortable and force too much hyperextension. Measurement is key to address your pillow concerns here, but correcting the anterior head syndrome will require a chiropractic approach.
While this may not solve all of your sleep dilemmas. It’s a fast and easy way to start getting better sleep today.
I’m sure you see it almost everyday. Whether it’s the fidgety co-worker who likes to hear all of his joints pop, or the guy on the plane that’s been rubbing his neck all day.
It’s the serial neck popper. They look straight out of the warm up scene of a martial arts movie, sound effects and all. While most will cringe and bite their tongue when they see it, the serial neck popper looks more focused and at ease. In fact, if their joints were capable of it, these people might pop it more often. It might even be you.
“It feels so good, how bad can it be?”
Some of the people who come into my office for care used to be serial neck poppers. Emphasis on the words “used to be”. One recommendation for people when they get their first adjustment is to avoid popping or cracking their neck. There’s usually a look of defeat on their face when the recommendation is given. The truth is that one of their greatest sources of relief from neck discomfort was actually the very thing that was making their problem a chronic issue.
The loose ligaments, and uncontrolled forces from self-manipulation prevent this neck from staying in place.
The x-ray on the right is an example of someone who spends a lot of time popping their own neck. He had no history of a car accident, sports injury, fall, or trauma. However, he has been popping his neck aka, self-manipulating multiple times per day for years.
The green line represents the center point where a person’s head and neck should line up. The red line represents how the patient’s head and neck currently line up in their “normal” seated position.
The level of displacement is not hard to see. In fact, most of you would probably notice someone like this who always holds their neck off to the side.
Though he always feels his neck is very tight, the neck tends to be very floppy without a strong degree of stability. Even after several corrections, his neck will continue to have a tendency to slip towards the side until the ligaments tighten up and heal.
So what exactly happens when you self-manipulate?
Despite popular belief, there is nothing insidious about the popping sound made by joints. The classic crunching sound that you hear, and is stereotyped with chiropractic has nothing to do with broken bones, or rubbing bones against each other. The sound comes from tiny gas bubbles within the fluid that lubricates your joints. When the joint opens up rapidly, these bubbles get released and pop causing those sounds.
It’s more like opening a can of soda than the crunching of a bone. If your neck or back cracks here and there with normal movement, it’s not a cause for concern most of the time.
The sound is ultimately not the problem. What truly is a problem is the way the thrust affects the spine.
In recent years, there have been videos, articles, and books that teach people how to adjust themselves. Now bear in mind, the neck is one of the most sensitive and important pieces of anatomy in the human body. So people are being taught to manipulate their neck without regard for the following factors:
1. Risk factors – Does your neck have disc bulges or protrusions? Are there plaques or anatomical malformations? Some of these risk factors are susceptible to rotation/twisting forces in the neck. Many of these problems can be identified and planned for with a proper examination, but without one, how do you know?
2. What is the current structure of the spine? – How is the spine currently aligned? Do you know which direction puts you into a better position? Are you moving the right vertebra? Are you pushing the vertebra into a worse position than it already is?
Our office uses x-rays to identify these malpositions. Can your own hands measure precise alignment in your neck?
3. Constant Manipulation = Loose ligaments = Poor Stability – Every time you manipulate your spine, you are causing ligaments in the spine to stretch like a rubber band. When you stretch a rubber band enough times, it eventually loses it’s shape and becomes less stable. Your ligaments work the same way. If you keep pounding on your neck with self-manipulation, your neck eventually becomes a sloppy mess like the x-ray above.
When people have ligament instability, it leads them down the road where they depend on manipulation to keep feeling good. Not a good situation, and a big reason chiropractors get a bad rap for getting people “addicted to adjustments”.
So what now?
When choosing a chiropractor, it’s important that they are actually measuring what they are doing to the spine. Almost any chiropractor is able to make someone feel better with manipulation. Manipulation sends a rush of feel good signals into the brain. However, a Structural Chiropractic approach is more than about feeling better in the moment.
It’s about restoring your spine and your nervous system to a state of Normal. A normally functioning spine has the ability to heal and maintain itself without relying on constant manipulation.
That’s why the procedures we perform in our office is truly about fixing the problem and getting it to stay fixed. Many times, these corrections can be performed without any rotation or twisting of the spine. It’s very gentle, and very effective.
Self-manipulation, while a temporary rush and feel good sensation can create hyper-mobility and long term structural problems in the neck. Additionally, it’s easy to become addicted to that feeling, and make your body dependent on constant manipulation to feel normal. In our world, we call that getting “hooked on the crack”. There are just too many questions about what can happen when you self-manipulate. It just doesn’t make sense to do something likely harmful for a few minutes of temporary relief.
of the most common and troublesome problems is a condition known as
Temporomandibular joint dysfuction, or TMD for short. In fact, many
of you may have heard someone talk about their TMJ or having TMD, but
didn’t quite know what it was.
involves the joint that connects your jaw to your head. Proper
movement of this joint is critical to proper function. It has a
profound affect on people because dysfunction of that joint can cause
a variety of problems including:
to open the jaw properly
has rapidly become one of the more common reasons for visits to a
neurologist and pain clinics, because of the dramatic impact that
this sensitive piece of anatomy has on a person’s quality of life.
Many times, this condition is treated with medications. In some
cases, muscle relaxers or injections to the joint.
does this have to do with the neck?
search of PubMed will show numerous references for increased
incidence of TMD in conjunction with a whiplash injury, or head/neck
trauma. A systematic review of
these papers show that people with whiplash/head injury actually have
more severe pain and more pronounced dysfunction of the joint.
Another review showed
that just treating the TMJ in these whiplash related cases poor
outcomes suggesting that the cause of the problem may be outside the
joint itself. The whiplash associated cases showed just a 48%
improvement compared to the non-whiplash cases which improved 75% of
the time. That leaves a huge amount of people who are still in pain
and suffering because the primary insult to the body was not
usually comes in 2 varieties:
Muscular dysfunction – the muscles of the jaw (pterygoids,
masseter, temporalis) become hypertonic and dysfunctional creating
painful musculature and sloppy movement.
Articular dysfunction – the joint itself can have problems.
Dislodging of the disc, arthritic degeneration, and inflammation can
irritate the very sensitive nerve endings that cover the joint.
much can be done about arthritic breakdown of a joint. However, this
is a less common cause of TMD. The most common causes of TMJ problems
stem from muscular imbalance and dislodging of the articular disc. In
a way, these two problems are intimately related. When you have bad
jaw muscles moving the jaw abnormally, then it leaves more room for
the articular disc to shift out of place.
what can make these jaw muscles dysfunctional? To know that, we have
to know what controls the muscle. Every muscle in your body is
controlled by a nerve. Whether it be a big bulky bicep, an achy sore
back muscle, the blood pumping heart muscle, and the food digesting
the jaw muscles, a special nerve called the Trigeminal Nerve emanates
from the skull and provides innervation for the face, jaw muscles,
teeth, brain, and other important structures. (as seen in the above image)
trigeminal nerve is one of twelve specialized nerves called Cranial
Nerves. The unique thing about Cranial Nerves is that they do not
exit out of the spine. They actually begin come out of the brain and
the brainstem, and exit out of the skull. Therefore, a problem with
one of the cranial nerves is usually indicative of a problem at the
Cervical Displacement, Whiplash, and the Brain Stem
of the reasons that our office gets referrals is because of how Cervical Displacement impacts
the health and function of the brain stem. While the top of the neck
doesn’t apply direct pressure to the brain stem, the movement and
function of the neck has large implications for this important piece
someone has an episode of whiplash, there can be substantial damage
and injury to the neck, but the more concerning portion is what
happens to the nervous system. A phenomenon known as Central
Sensitization occurs. This problem happens when the brain stem fires
inappropriately to the limbic system (controls the basic emotions (fear, pleasure, anger) and drives (hunger, sex, dominance, care of offspring)) and reticular activating system
(the places where pain is interpreted in the brain). When this
happens, even the slightest touch or movement can trigger a pain
sensation in the brain.
is why many doctors can find no physical damage to the body, but
people will suffer with chronic pain issues like fibromyalgia. People recognize this quickly when the pain is stemming from the
neck, shoulders or back, but the reality is that this same thing is
happening in the jaw muscles.
get to the root of someone’s problems, we have to evaluate this
critical, but under studied part of the nervous system.
Structural Chiropractic address this?
1. Restore healthy biomechanics to the spine –
create a state of Normal Structure in the neck so that the proper
signals get to the brain.
2. Increase circulation through the brain –
proper alignment ensures that blood to and from the brain stem
properly. Proper blood flow means better nerve firing.
3. Restore health biomechanics to the jaw –
Once the neck alignment is restored, most of the time the jaw will
reset on it’s own. However, sometimes gentle jaw adjustments may be
I Have a Military Neck, Now What?
My doctor told me that I have a military neck and that it was causing my neck pain…
My last chiropractor said that I have a military neck and I needed a year to fix it
Over the past 10 years, the general public is becoming increasingly aware about certain facets of spinal alignment. For years, parents of small children are showing more concern about their child having scoliosis and other postural problems. Today, more and more patients have voiced their concerns about having a military neck in our office.
While it’s refreshing from a chirorpactor's stand point to see a greater awareness about spinal health, there are still a number of misconceptions that need to be addressed.
What’s a Military Neck?
The images on the below show x-rays for 2 people. The top image is a smooth C-shaped Arc representing a normal curve, while the image on the bottom shows a straightened appearance from a loss of the normal curvature.
When people talk about having a military neck, people are talking about the straightened appearance that the neck takes when it loses it’s normal curvature. Military neck has less to do with being injured in the line of duty, and more to do with the straight and stiff appearance of a soldier’s posture.
The straightened and weak structure of a military neck
How Bad is it Really?
When patients come to our office for a consultation they will mention if they had x-rays in the past. I’ve had several people who had a previous chiropractor promise the world by putting the curve back in their neck. I’ve also had a few medical doctors tell people that the cause of their pain is from the loss of curvature in their neck as well.
The presence of a curve in your neck allows for smoother motion of each of your neck vertebra. It also plays a key role in distributing force throughout the discs of the cervical spine. In essence, a C-shaped curve in the neck can and will prevent early breakdown and degeneration of your spinal joints. As the discs and joints begin to breakdown, it can create the environment for inflammation to build up around the nerves, or even lead to disc protrusions and disc bulges.
You may not feel the effects of a military neck immediately, but just like you don’t feel plaque building up in your arteries, it is something than can and will eventually become problematic as you go.
Can It Be Fixed?
This part is a bit of a loaded question. The answer really comes down to this fact:
Why is the neck straight to begin with?
Many cases are induced by compromising neck positions from texting/computer/screen time and has lead to weakness of the intrinsic muscles of the head and neck. Some cases involve malformed vertebra that force the neck into a straight or reversed position. Then of course are the neck’s that are a result of traumatic injury like whiplash.
Many of the postural and some of the minor traumatic injuries can see their curves restored nicely under structural chiropractic care. However, the cases of misshaped vertebra and some of the traumatic cases may not see a return back to normal, no matter how skilled or how well the intention of that chiropractor is.
I Tried to Get it Fixed, but my Neck is Still Straight. Now What?
Here’s the good news:
You don’t necessarily need the curve in your neck fixed in order to get great results!
We often see Military Necks as Structural Problem. Although it’s really fun to see a straight neck get it’s curve back, it’s not a requirement for the patient to get improved biomechanical function of their spine again.
Take Home Message
Military necks are associated with problems in the neck, but it’s not a death sentence. While we all want to be perfect, it’s important to understand that your body will always do what it can to adapt to any situation. Curve or no curve.
Some structural distortions like may not have the popular awareness of military neck, but carry far wider implications for spine problems, and brain problems.
The most important thing to remember is that the care you choose to receive makes an impact on the quality of your life.
What is a food allergy?
A food allergy is an immune system response. It is caused when the body mistakes an ingredient in food — usually a protein — as harmful and creates a defense system (antibodies) to fight it. An allergic reaction occurs when the antibodies are battling an "invading" food protein. The most common food allergies are shellfish or fish, nuts (peanuts, etc), and milk/dairy products.
What is food intolerance?
Food intolerance is a digestive system response rather than an immune system response. It occurs when something in food irritates a person’s digestive system or when a person is unable to properly digest, or break down, the food. Intolerance to lactose, which is found in milk and other dairy products, is the most common food intolerance.
What are the symptoms of a food allergy?
Symptoms of a food allergy can range from mild to severe, and the amount of food necessary to trigger a reaction varies from person to person. Symptoms of a food allergy may include:
· Rash or hives
· Cramping stomach pain
· Itchy skin
· Shortness of breath
· Chest pain
· Swelling of the airways to the lungs
Anaphylaxis is a very serious and potentially fatal allergic reaction that involves a sudden drop in blood pressure, loss of consciousness and body system failure.
What are the symptoms of food intolerance?
Symptoms of food intolerance include:
· Stomach pain
· Gas, cramps or bloating
· Irritability or nervousness
When experienced the episode is a mild inconvenience, the affected individual will associate it with a unrelated event.
How common are food allergies and intolerance's?
Food allergies affect about 1 percent of adults and 7 percent of children, although some children outgrow their allergies. Food intolerance's are much more common. In fact, nearly everyone at one time has had an unpleasant reaction to something they ate. Some people have specific food intolerance's. Lactose intolerance, the most common specific food intolerance, affects about 10 percent of Americans.
What causes food allergies and intolerance's?
Food allergies arise from sensitivity to chemical compounds (proteins) in food, even compounds that are found naturally in food. Food allergies are more common in people whose family members have allergies, suggesting a genetic — or hereditary — factor may be involved with the development of food allergies.
Food allergies develop after you are exposed to a food protein that your body thinks is harmful. The first time you eat the food containing the protein, your immune system responds by creating specific disease-fighting antibodies (called immunoglobulin E or IgE). When you eat the food again, it triggers the release of IgE antibodies and other chemicals, including histamine, in an effort to expel the protein "invader" from your body. Histamine is a powerful chemical that can affect the respiratory system, gastrointestinal tract, skin or cardiovascular system.
The allergy symptoms you have depend on where in the body the histamine is released. If it is released in the ears, nose and throat, you may have an itchy nose and mouth, or trouble breathing or swallowing. If histamine is released in the skin, you may develop hives or a rash. If histamine is released in the gastrointestinal tract, you likely will develop stomach pains, cramps or diarrhea. Many people experience a combination of symptoms as the food is eaten and digested.
There are many factors that may contribute to food intolerance. In some cases — as with lactose intolerance — the person lacks the chemicals, called enzymes, necessary to properly digest certain proteins found in food. Also common are intolerances to some chemical ingredients added to food to provide color, enhance taste and protect against the growth of bacteria. These ingredients include various dyes and monosodium glutamate (MSG), a flavor enhancer.
Substances called sulfites, which may occur naturally — as in red wines — or may be added to prevent the growth of mold, also are a source of intolerance for some people. The Food and Drug Administration has banned the use of spray-on sulfates to preserve fruits and vegetables, but sulfates are still found naturally in some foods. Salicylates are a group of plant chemicals found naturally in many fruits, vegetables, nuts, coffee, juices, beer and wine. Aspirin also is a compound of the salicylate family. Foods containing salicylates may trigger symptoms in people who are sensitive to aspirin. Of course, any food consumed in excessive quantities can cause digestive symptoms.
How can you tell the difference between an allergy and intolerance to food?
Food allergies can be triggered by a small amount of the food and occur every time the food is consumed. People with food allergies are generally advised to avoid the offending foods completely. On the other hand, food intolerance's often are dose related; people with food intolerance may not have symptoms unless they eat a large portion of the food or eat the food frequently. For example, a person with lactose intolerance may be able to drink milk in coffee or a single glass of milk, but becomes sick if he or she drinks several glasses of milk. Food allergies and intolerances also are different from food poisoning, which generally results from spoiled or tainted food and affects more than one person eating the food.
How are food intolerance's diagnosed?
A simple blood test can measure your immune system's response to particular foods by checking the amount of allergy-type antibodies in your bloodstream. For this test, a blood sample taken in and sent to a medical laboratory, where different foods can be tested. Once completed the individual would receive a report (based on complexity of the test).
How are food intolerance's treated?
Treatment is based on avoiding or reducing your intake of problematic foods.
Can food intolerance's be prevented?
Taking a few simple steps can help you prevent the symptoms associated with food intolerance.
· Learn which foods in which amounts cause you to have symptoms, and limit your intake to amounts you can handle.
· When you dine out, ask your server about how your meal will be prepared. Some meals may contain foods you cannot tolerate, and that may not be evident from the description on the menu.
· Learn to read food labels and check the ingredients for problem foods. Don’t forget to check condiments and seasonings. They may contain MSG or another additive that can lead to symptoms.
Contact our office for more information – 248.287.8700
kids are way too young for spinal problems…”
my years in practice, people have often asked why we check so many
kids in the office. Most people are under the impression that
children are way too young to have a structural problem in the spine.
For the most part, you would be absolutely correct. About 60% of the
kids we check in the office have no structural problems at all, and
thank goodness for that.
statistics from the Center for Disease Control show some alarming
numbers. Each year, over 1 million children between the ages
of 0-5 will be hospitalized due to a fall. Another 700,000
will be hospitalized from an accidental trauma. That’s not even
including the number of kids who will suffer a trauma to the spine,
but are never taken to the ER!
think about this, most people will never even know or think about
taking their kids to a chiropractor following a fall or trauma.
The great news is that kids are extraordinarily resilient to injury.
They bounce back up, and their ability to heal is just much better
than that of an average adult. However, structural problems in the
spine don’t necessarily cause neck pain and back pain, especially
in children. What they can do is create other secondary conditions.
Whenever there is pressure in the nerves at the base of the brain
from a structural misalignment at the top of the neck, many kids can
show conditions like:
are just some of the common conditions that parents bring their kids
to chiropractors for. While it’s not a chiropractor’s job to
treat these symptoms, they are signs that the nerve supply from a
child’s spine is compromised. On many kids, this can be tied to a
difficult or traumatic birth process.
best part of all is how much kids love getting gentle adjustments.
It’s often times a parent’s worst nightmare to take their kids to
a doctor. The screaming and tantrums on display at a pediatrician or
a dentist can unnerve even the strongest parent. A child and infant
adjustment is very different than adults, and you’ll usually see
kids jumping on to my tables excited to be checked!
the most important reason that kids should be checked early is just
because it makes sense. When most of us adults
develop some bad secondary conditions, x-rays usually show that a
problem has been growing in the spine for 15+ years. Why let kids
develop the same problems that us adults have had. Just like we take
our kids for a dental check-up to ensure that they are free of
cavities, our kids deserve a structural check-up to prevent the
damage of a developing spine.