The Solution to Preventing Cervicalgia
The Solution to Preventing Cervicalgia
Cervicalgia is a common condition of neck pain that the majority of the population will experience sometime in their life. The pain associated with cervicalgia may be localized in the cervical spine or extend to the musculature of the shoulders, and in some cases causes pain or tingling in the arms and hands. Associated symptoms with cervicalgia are often neck rigidity, cervical muscular imbalances, dizziness, pain in the shoulders, arms, and hands, postural abnormalities, and headaches. As cervicalgia is a very common condition, it is important to understand what it is caused by, lifestyle changes to help prevent it from occurring, and ways to effectively manage the pain and reduce the length and intensity of symptoms when it does occur. Like many other health conditions, cervicalgia does not necessarily happen “over night.” Although it may seem that “sleeping incorrectly” triggered the onset, cervicalgia is actually a result of multiple preexisting factors.
The key factor causing symptoms associated with cervicalgia is a misalignment of one or more vertebrae in the cervical spine. When a vertebra has lost its proper position, inflammation from the joint space is released, causing decreased range of motion and irritation to the cervical spinal nerves. Muscular and postural imbalances also occur to compensate for the spinal misalignments. Common visual postural compensations include lateral flexion or rotation of the head, one shoulder being higher than the other shoulder, or the head being anteriorly placed in relation to the midline of the body. Prolonged spinal joint dysfunction, inflammation, and muscular imbalances of the cervical spine later manifest as symptoms termed “cervicalgia.”
The muscles of the neck as well as the cervical spine, with its joints and discs, are designed to support the weight of the head, but only when it is centered over the shoulders. When the head moves forward, the pressure exerted on the spine, and the shoulder and neck muscles, increase drastically as they have to work harder to hold the head up. For most people this posture generally starts from habits learned at a young age. For example, school aged children spend many hours per day sitting, and when reading, they naturally lean their heads forward causing anterior placement of the head in relation to the shoulders. With the head in this position for a prolonged period of time, naturally the shoulders round forward weakening the muscles of the spine, and the curvature of the dorsal spine is increased. Incorrect posture starts at a young age, and is generally carried out throughout adulthood. For adults who have jobs in which they remain seated for prolonged periods of time, a similar posture is very common, thus the cervical spine is constantly under stress.
When cervicalgia manifests, proper management of the condition is key to reducing the symptoms and correcting the underlying cause of the problem. Spinal stretches and massages, for example, are effective for initial symptom relief of cervicalgia. However, if the cervical vertebrae are still out of alignment, the biomechanical cause of cervicalgia has not been corrected nor has proper function of the joints of the spine been restored. It is just a matter of time before the muscles again become rigid and the person experiences another episode of cervicalgia. Chronic spinal misalignments that are untreated may lead to spinal degeneration, a predisposition to herniated discs of the cervical spine, shortened musculature surrounding the neck and the shoulders, and recurrent cervicalgia symptoms.
The body works best when it is aligned. The American Posture Institute’s postural correction program, 12 Weeks to Better Posture is highly effective in correcting spinal misalignments and realigning the spinal column. Postural specialists identify and analyze the direction of the misalignment of the vertebra, then correct the position of the vertebra by performing a specific spinal alignment adjustment and postural rehabilitation exercises. With restoration of the proper alignment of the spine, the joints move with more fluidity and precision, and muscle rigidity is decreased. Patients commonly mention that their neck feels much “freer” indicating a greater range of motion and less muscular tension, and “straighter” meaning the proper structural position has naturally been restored.
Treat your spine as you treat your teeth. Proper dental hygiene, such as brushing your teeth daily and scheduling regular dental exams, is important to prevent dental problems. Consider the same concept with your spine. Focus on maintaining correct posture and schedule routine posture examinations to ensure proper alignment of the spine. Postural correction is the best way to prevent, correct, and manage symptoms associated with cervicalgia. Remember, symptoms of cervicalgia often take years to develop. You don’t have to suffer, correct cervicalgia before it ever happens with proper postural habits.
Dr. Krista Burns DC, DRHA, CPEP, CPS
Doctor of Chiropractic
Doctor of Health Administration
Certified Postural Specialist
Co-Founder American Posture Institute