Currently viewing the tag: "neck pain"

Neck pain has become more prevalent over the last decade probably as a result of increased computer usage, especially hand-held devices and tablets. Anybody that has had chronic neck pain knows how un-fun it can be. In fact, for some, neck pain along with its oft-associated shoulder pain, arm pain, or numbness/tingling can be unnerving, and enough to drive one slowly insane (I know, I speak from experience). So the following are the ten steps necessary to beat neck pain:

The first is to go see a chiropractor. Don’t delay—the longer you wait, the harder your neck pain becomes to treat, and the longer you can count on its sticking around. Neck pain can be stiffness, achiness, sharp or shooting pain, or severe pain on movement. If you have neurological symptoms—like numbness and tingling—in a limb, you really can’t afford to wait. Don’t lose limb function—get to your chiropractor (or medical doctor) right away.

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Being an avid exerciser for decades, as well as a sports chiropractor for going on fifteen years, I have seen my fair share poor form SNAFUs. Improper form when working out can lead to injuries, from the minor, to the severe, to the flat-out serious. Here are ten of the worst offenders causing sports injuries to walk into my West Hollywood Sports Chiropractic Clinic:

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Wrong! Rounding the back while stretching hamstrings can lead to herniated discs. I know he’s old; he probably shouldn’t be doing that version…find the stretch right for your level.

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Perfect! Back straight and leg at proper height to maintain arch. No matter which version you do, maintaining back arch of utmost importance.


One of the most common precursors to injury of the neck, shoulders, chest or upper back are poor shoulder biomechanics during exercise. Biomechanics are related to structure and function; in other words, how the body moves. Therefore, the positioning of the shoulders is extremely important during upper body movements.

Additionally, how the upper body parts move during an exercise will also effect the overall health of that structure. Think of a sliding closet door that no longer moves freely on its tracks–it sticks. You’ll agree that opening and closing said door will be difficult, and ultimately it’ll break down. That’s exactly what happens to the shoulder joints when the biomechanics are altered in any way. But worse, because the neck and chest are so intimately tied to the shoulder girdle, they can also be affected by poor shoulder biomechanics, sometimes earlier than the actual shoulders.

There are two main causes of poor biomechanics: posture (and we’ll include any adapted dysfunction) and poor form. The former is often a result of the latter, and they consequently worsen concurrently over time. Primary proper shoulder positioning is in the retracted state–or pulled back onto the upper back. This position allows the shoulders to move freely in the socket–thus, resolving the stuck sliding door aspect that can occur when the shoulders are allowed to round forward in the protracted position.

Whether lifting weights or doing yoga, form is everything. Watch the video below to see how to maintain proper shoulder positioning during upper body exercises. Guaranteed you’ll preserve your shoulders that way, and you’ll likely prevent much neck and chest discomfort too. And frankly, you’ll look better, because you’ll develop the way you are supposed to. Give it a try.

Many people come into my Beverly Hills chiropractic office asking what they can do to stretch their upper backs.  Upper back pain and stiffness has become more common as the use of computers and laptops has increased.  I always say that the best stretch for the upper back is really a stretch for the chest, because when the chest muscles (pectorals major and minor) get tight, they can cause the upper back muscles to become overactive.

As far as I’m concerned, pec stretches are fundamental, so EVERYONE should be doing them.  But especially people with neck pain, upper back stiffness or shoulder injuries should ultimately open up their chest areas.  Watch the video below to see the best pec stretch for flexibility and upper back pain relief.

Achy, sore neck and upper back following a long day in front of the computer?  Work at a desk and at day’s end feel like your head weighs a ton?  Perhaps you’re a student, head down, nose in the books all day long…that can certainly cause a stiff neck.  Architect?  Lots of driving?  T.V. in bed?  All these activities are common causes of neck and upper back pain and discomfort.

A perfect exercise to help the office worker, student, computer junkie, or couch crasher is something called the Brugger relief position.  This position works by engaging the postural muscles of the spine, holding the body upright.  While it may be uncomfortable for a few people at first (habitual slouchers), engaging the postural muscles takes pressure off the ligaments, which hold the spine up during slouching, and ultimately leads to upper back pain relief.

Watch the video below to see how to properly do the Brugger relief position at home or at work.  Do this exercise every day, minimum five times, until your body is used to the posture.  Then you can do the exercise whenever you start to feel stiff or sore in the neck or upper back.  This exercise does wonders for low back pain, too.

I have been showing you exercises to strengthen your upper back, primarily the lower trapezius muscles.  The trapezius is a large diamond-shaped muscle that connects the neck to the shoulders (scapula or shoulder blades).  Although the trapezius is one muscle, we split it into regions based on the actions each does.  So the upper trapezius shrugs the shoulders, the middle trapezius retracts or pulls back the shoulders, and the lower trapezius stabilizes the scapula by anchoring them down so that the arms can do overhead movements.

When the lower trapezius gets weak, it disrupts shoulder biomechanics and can lead to an upper trap-heavy posture, including neck and upper back pain  One way to correct this is by doing wall slide exercises.  Wall slides are NOT lat pull downs; it is a separate and distinct movement, which requires no weights.  Watch the video below to get an idea of how to do proper wall slides.

Did you know there is a right and a wrong way to breathe?  It’s true.  And if you are like most people, you are probably doing the latter.  Unfortunate, but not uncorrectable.
Proper breathing requires contraction of the diaphragm–the main muscle of respiration.  Many people stop using the diaphragm completely when they breathe, and instead kick in the accessory muscles of the neck and upper back.  We call this dysfunctional breathing pattern chest breathing.  To see if you are a chest breather, please read the article and watch the video below.  Chest breathers tend to have higher incidences of neck pain, and they get less oxygen to the body on each breath.  If you didn’t know that oxygen is necessary for cellular respiration, and thus life, you do now.  Diaphragmatic breathing (or abdominal breathing) is essential for good health.
If you are a chest breather, you can revert back to the natural diaphragmatic breathing you were meant to do.  Just watch the video below to learn a quick and easy exercise to restore normal, functional breathing; and read this article if you want more information on breathing properly.

TMJ syndrome is a painful condition of the jaw joint (temporomandibular joint).  Many people suffer from TMJ syndrome without even knowing it.  They may have neck pain; they may have headaches; they may have no pain at all, but an annoying clicking and popping of the jaw.

TMJ syndrome does not have to be a chronic condition, though.  I treat many people with TMJ syndrome in my Los Angles, Beverly Hills, and West Hollywood chiropractic clinic.  To see how I might treat someone with this painful jaw condition, please watch the video below.

For more information on TMJ syndrome–it’s causes as well as it’s solution, please read the article here.

Neck pain is the most common thing I see in my Los Angeles, Beverly Hills and West Hollywood chiropractic clinic during the hot months of summer and fall.  Whether from sleeping with the air conditioner on or with a window open, that cold breeze can lead to an eight hour muscle spasm locking-up the neck for days, weeks or even months afterwards.

Neck pain, however, is not always that simple.  What I mean is that there are many different causes of neck pain and getting neck pain relief really depends on the proper treatment.  For that, you need to have a proper diagnosis.  Chiropractic can help with many forms of neck pain, but again, knowing what is causing the disorder will help the chiropractor provide the best chiropractic adjustment

Read this article written for my website to learn what you can do to get your neck pain properly diagnosed and treated, as well learning which neck exercises and stretches will be the best prevention.  Don’t suffer from neck pain needlessly; read this article and you’ll be that much closer to getting neck pain relief.

For a look at what a chiropractic neck adjustment looks like, watch the video.

So you’ve beaten neck pain this time, and I am sure you don’t want to go through that battle again, so the best thing you can do to avoid a rematch is to be conscious of your posture and biomechanics when you exercise. Biomechanics is the way the body moves, and doing so properly will be the difference between looking and feeling good, or breaking down structurally. That’s right—poor biomechanics will lead to increased joint degeneration, tight muscles, sprains, strains and other injuries. So remember to keep your shoulders retracted when you workout, whether lifting weights, dancing or doing yoga.

Retracted shoulders are the proper biomechanical position for upper body movements, so always keep that in mind when working out. This should keep your neck and shoulders operating smoothly throughout your lifetime. Neck pain is no fun—I speak from experience—so the best defense is a good offense: attack future neck pain by creating the best environment for you neck, shoulders, and upper back to function. You won’t have to suffer or find yourself under the surgeon’s knife one day if you listen to me now. Whether you are trying to beat neck pain now, or prevent it from happening in the future, follow these ten steps and you can’t go wrong.

56569871 (Copy)When it comes to beating neck pain, and preventing it from rearing its ugly head in the future, posture must be addressed. Good posture has so many benefits that not correcting yours now is a huge mistake, but if you have been having neck pain, then you’ll need to do it now anyway, or you just won’t feel better for very long. My absolute favorite exercise to get the good posture ball rolling is the Brugger Relief Position—it’s called a relief position because once your postural muscles become used to the movement, this pose should feel great. Watch the video below to see the proper way to do the Brugger Relief Position:

This position conditions the postural muscles which hold us upright when we sit or stand. It has some similarities to the chest raises, but you do not have to squeeze hard in this one—just light enough to feel the contraction should do. The combined moves in the Brugger are some of the fundamentals of good posture, so practice liberally—five times per day is perfect, and just come back to it periodically throughout your life. Simple. Finally, let’s talk biomechanics:

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Once inflammation has been diminished, muscle spasms reduced, and muscle tissue decontracted it is time for lengthening the muscles of the neck themselves. Although a number of neck muscles could use stretching, the upper trapezius and levator scapula are two of the most common muscles involved in neck pain. Further, due to stress or simply poor posture, both these scapular elevators get short and tight over time. Watch the video below to see the best stretches for the upper trapezius and levator scapula to help beat neck pain:

It is important with these two stretches to do the steps in order; if you miss a step or combine them, you will not feel the stretch, so if you mess up a step, start over from the beginning. Avoid the temptation to pull on your head to help get a better stretch; what I show in the video should be enough. Now let’s talk about posture:

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Schroeder-Piano (Copy)One important factor in beating neck pain is to strengthen and stabilize weak areas such as the upper back and shoulders. Since we spend so much time in activities which have us flexing our upper torsos (think Schroeder playing the piano), it is no surprise that the upper back muscles get weak or inactive as a result. Strengthening this region, then, is of the utmost importance. My favorite exercise to carry out this task is the chest raise—simple and effective…no bells, whistles, benches, cables, kettlebells or five-finger shoes needed. Watch the video below to see how simple the chest raise is to do; but don’t mistake its simplicity for easy—this exercise is tough, especially if your upper back extensors are deconditioned.

People will often ask me if they should do this exercise with weight. The answer is NO! Gravity will provide the resistance. Weights will simply have you recruiting muscles you are not attempting to strengthen. If not challenged by this movement, then you may not be deconditioned. This is a rehab exercise, not a gains exercise. Stick to your tried and true for muscle growth. But like any other contraction, muscle tissue is being micro-torn, which will then repair, so giving a minimum of one day rest between sessions is imperative. Drink lots of water too (two liters), always. And get ready for the next stretch: the neck stretch…

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Once you have had your neck pain spasms and hyper-contractions addressed, you can now start stretching. While a number of neck and shoulder muscles will need to be stretched for a comprehensive recovery from your neck injury; one of the most fundamental—one which I give to every one of my patients that has neck or shoulder pain—is the pec stretch. The pectoralis major and minor are the two muscles that make up the chest. Although both will need stretching, the pec minor in particular can be problematic when short and tight. Because of its insertion point on the scapula (shoulder blade), a tight pec minor will roll the shoulders forward and the chin forward and out (anterior head carriage), which creates quite a strain on the neck.

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Watch the video below to see the best pec stretch to relieve neck pain.

The pec major will also need stretching. Watch this video here (don’t be fooled by the title) to learn the best pectoralis major stretch to relieve neck pain.

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Two things happen to muscle tissue: One is they get short and tight, and two is they can remain in contracted state. Shortened muscles are your typical “tight” muscles, which you can stretch to provide lengthening. Contracted muscle on the other hand can be stretched til the cows come home, and they will not de-contract. Muscle spasms are an extreme example of this hyper-contraction. Try to stretch a spasm and all you will do is make it worse, because the muscle will reflexively oppose the lengthening (that’s why they have spasmed to begin with—the incredible Innate Intelligence of the body). Decontraction is best carried out with a technique called post-isometric relaxation (PIR). As the name implies, it involves relaxations (decontraction) after a light contraction. The idea is we need to contract to relax. Watch the video below for a demonstration on this enormously effective relaxation technique:

PIR is so effective, and hyper-contracted muscle so painful, that this technique alone can be the answer for your chronic neck pain–you know the kind: the one that has sent you to a multitude of doctors, chiropractors, therapists and acupuncturists, none providing the complete relief of that painful neck that you’ve just wanted…to…stretch…out, but it never seems to help. That is usually a hyper-contracted muscle and you need PIR.

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Once the inflammation connected to your neck pain has diminished, you can start to receive muscle work. Muscle work, in this context, can refer to anything from massage, to trigger point therapy, to post-isometric relaxation (PIR). Although it is imperative for inflammation to be reduced, a practitioner can work around any inflamed area, so therapy for the upper back, for instance, can be very helpful to the person suffering from neck pain. Muscle spasm, a common reflexive guarding response to many neck injuries, can also be reduced with electric muscle stimulation. Watch the video to see a demonstration of this type of therapy.

Because the muscles can be such a large component of neck pain, wisdom is in addressing the muscle tissue to return blood flow, break up scar tissue formation, and realign the connective tissue fibers being laid down by repair cells so that this soft tissue can heal properly, and with least potential for creating an environment of chronicity (scar tissue, poor blood supply, trigger points). Once the neck pain muscle spasms have been reduced, those hyper-contracted muscles need to be relaxed.

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Neck pain - Palm Desert chiropractorIf you are dealing with an acute injury—ligament sprain, muscle strain or herniated disk—you will need to ice the area. The best way to tell if ice is necessary is to poke around the painful area. If the painful points are easily found and are tender to the touch, that is a good indication you need to ice the region. Icing is a very specific activity, which can make or break your healing, so following the proper icing rules is essential. Watch the video below for the proper way to ice an acute neck injury.

Ice breaks inflammation—that vital part of the healing process that can act destructively when allowed to sit around for too long. Inflammation has an interesting characteristic, whereby it causes a diffuse pain (wide area, difficult to pinpoint). As inflammation decreases, pain becomes more localized. These are a few more signs that tell you the need for ice. People often ask about using anti-inflammatories, like Motrin, instead of ice…I wrote a piece on it here, and will leave it to you to read up. Once inflammation has been reduced sufficiently, you can move onto the next step

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Neck pain - Indio chiropractorA good chiropractor will give you a full evaluation—physical, orthopedic and neurological. Most neck pain has a complex of factors, from spinal, to muscular, to fascial, to disk, and each one needs addressing. Some factors you can take care of yourself, but others just need professional care.

If you have fixated spinal joints (subluxation), you will need a chiropractor to release them. No rest, stretching, exercising, heat, ice, or Advil is going to take that pain away. Only a chiropractic adjustment will do that–by opening the joint and restoring movement. Don’t underestimate this crucial step—it is why so many neck pain cases never fully resolve. Get your neck pain evaluated by a chiropractor for the most comprehensive approach to neck pain relief.

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