You may not know this, but when you have a problem in your neck, it may be causing more than just neck pain. The neck has a ton of receptors embedded deep within the joint capsules of the spine, the tiny muscles that control and detect posture, and even within the supporting ligaments. The nerve signals go straight to the brainstem and brain to give the body information about what the body is doing.
First the big one, and a very common thing I see in my chiropractic office in St. George. You might have gone your whole life not hearing about “cervicogenic headaches”, but you might have had one and popped a pill for it.
Here’s a study that showed 8 to 16 chiropractic treatments cut their pain by half, and the more visits the better. Also cut in half was the number of headaches people got. People got fewer headaches with chiropractic care. This study found that people who have their headaches get worse with neck movement, or had their headache relieved with movement were more likely to get better with chiropractic care.
There are a lot of studies looking at the neck and it’s role in producing headaches. There are a lot of reviews of the evidence that takes a very critical look at the evidence. This one in Cephalgia looked at randomized clinical trials for cervicogenic headaches. They said,
In two studies, patients receiving spinal manipulation showed comparable improvements in migraine and tension headaches compared to drug treatment.
CONCLUSIONS: [chiropractic care] appears to have a better effect than massage for cervicogenic headache. It also appears that [chiropractic care]has an effect comparable to commonly used first-line prophylactic prescription medications for tension-type headache and migraine headache.
But that’s not all
Did you know that problems in the neck can also cause problems with dizziness, hearing, or even vision?
Strunk and Hawk, from Cleveland Chiropractic College looked at chiropractic care and dizziness, neck pain, and balance. They found that,
Most patients demonstrated improved balance, and some showed reduced dizziness and neck pain
These guys from Australia looked at how effective a neck treatment similar to a type of chiropractic care in our office would be for dizziness, neck pain, or headache. They compared the real treatment to a placebo treatment, and they found,
the [neck treatment] group had less … dizziness, lower … scores on DHI [a disability index], and less … cervical pain. Balance with the neck in extension improved … and extension range of motion increased … in the [neck treatment] group. No improvements in balance or range of motion were observed in the placebo group. The [neck treatment] treatment had an immediate clinically and statistically significant sustained effect in reducing dizziness, cervical pain and disability caused by cervical dysfunction.
There’s a career researcher named M Hulse who has been looking at the mechanisms of the neck and the effect on balance and hearing for decades. Most of his studies are in German, but the translated abstracts are available on the interned.
In 2004, they looked at 220 patients with dizziness, hearing impairment, tinnitus, and dysphonia (speech problems.) These patients had cervical spine manipulation, similar to what we do in our chiropractic office. Their results:
The extraordinary satisfaction with the manipulative therapy in 82% of patients with dizziness (46% total relief, 36% high improvement) reflects the high efficiency of this manual therapy. In contrast to these results, only 10% of patients with tinnitus showed an improvement (P<0.001). This retrospective investigation demonstrates that a successful outcome after manual therapy is not based on a “placebo effect”.
The good results obtained with manual therapy in patients with head and neck pain contradict the refusal of the majority of the neurologists to accept the diagnosis “cervicogenic headache.”Complaints about headache are frequently encountered in the general ENT clinic. In many cases, the diagnosis of the different types of headaches can be based on the anamnesis. It is difficult to define a tension headache, because it is not a sharply defined syndrome and the disturbance of the neck represents only one of many factors. The versatile picture of the cervicogenic headache is caused by the complex neural connections in the region of the upper cervical spine.
A functional cervical spine disorder is often the cause for persistent vertigo, which can last months or several years. The existence of cervical vertigo is not generally recognized, mainly because an objectivation of the cervical nystagmus is not easily understood by many examiners.
They treated the neck with manual therapy, and,
These results show that a functional disorder of the cervical vertebrae influences the vestibulospinal reactions. […] The results of the treatment can be observed within a few hours.
He also found that hearing loss can be affected with treatment of the neck when appropriate.
Findings in 62 patients suffering from vertebragenic hearing disorders are reported before and after chiropractic management. Results indicate that these hearing disorders are reversible, as demonstrated by audiometry and OAE. The therapy of choice is chiropractic manipulation of the upper cervical spine. The commoness of vertebragenic hearing disorders emphasizes their clinical and forensic importance.
Treatment of speech problems (functional dysphonia) after neck injuries:
After a head or a cervical injury dysphonia and its accompanying globus syndrome are often ignored, even if the existence of these traumatic sequelae are repeatedly reported. Till now there is no coherent idea about their pathogenesis, wherefore in the individual case wide differences exist in the diagnosis, treatment and in the expert opinion. It could be shown in this paper, that a posttraumatic dysphonia, due to a minor trauma, is a well defined disease with an uniform pathogenesis. The diagnosis results from the typical anamnesis of the accident, from the prove of the functional dysphonia and last not least from the prove of a functional deficit of the cervical spine, especially in the height of C 2/3. The right diagnosis allows a causal treatment and enables a just expert opinion.
They found that,
Chiropractic manipulation of the cervical spine can unlock the stiffness of the spine and normalize the voice within a few minutes.
Even way back in 1975, Hulse showed us a link between spinal manipulation and vertigo coming from a functional disturbance in the upper neck. He said that, “The therapy of choice is manipulation.” In 1976, he observed eyeball nystagmus when there were problems in the upper part of the neck. The neck has an effect on the nerve signals to the brain stem.
The neck is very robust, yet send very delicate signals to the whole nervous system. It’s more than just neck pain, because the neck has a very important signaling function. As we have seen, when these signals get mixed up, a lot can go wrong.
If you are experiencing some of these symptoms, we are trained in helping these out. In the St. George area, we are available to you. Call us at (435) 574-9114 to talk to Dr. Lloyd.
Todd Lloyd, DC
Doctor of Chiropractic in St. George, UT