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Injuries of the cervical-skull and therapies to treat them

woman experiencing back pain in the office

Arthritic / Degenerative Conditions:

As we age, the weight of our head on our spine causes pressure through the disc and the joints of the spine. This eventually causes wearing out of the joints and flattening of the discs. The condition can cause pain from the discs flattening into the nerves and the joints from the pressure can get very sensitive.

Therapies targeted at the problem can help relieve inflammation, reduce pressure on the nerves, and restore mobility to the spinal segments. Cervical traction can reduce pressure on the discs and nerves, Electro-Acupressure can reduce nerve sensitization, and manual therapy to the tissue structures can relieve tension and spasms around the area. Along with these modalities, proper alignment through chiropractic adjustments, stretching of tight structures, mobilizing the bogged down joints, physical therapy to improve posture, and modalities to reduce pain and inflammation all can be effective to treat these conditions.


Whiplash traditionally occurs from fast acceleration /deceleration of the head on the neck and can be forward and back or side to side. Even in collisions of 5 Miles Per Hour, the weight of the head and momentum can cause serious trauma to the underlying ligaments, muscles, discs, and spinal joints.

Studies have shown that early return to mobility is best for Whiplash. Gentle guided return to motion can be accomplished by reducing pain, inflammation from the trauma, and improving healing through enhancing circulation and lymphatic drainage. Modalities like moist heat,electrical stimulation, ultrasound, Class IV Laser , intermittent traction, electro-acupressure, all help reduce the spasms from the traumatic event. Deep tissue myofascial work, chiropractic adjustments, and joint mobilizations all help restore proper functioning of the cervical spine. Once motion is restored and pain controlled, a course of rehabilitative exercises to re-teach the deep spinal muscles to stabilize the spine will further accelerate the healing process. If needed, trigger point injections can help reduce spasms.

Migraines / Cluster Headaches:

Headaches can be debilitating. Often times headaches can be related to vascular conditions in the brain and even sensitivities and allergic reactions. There are some, however, whose headaches come from issues in the cervical spine like disc herniations and muscle tension.

Treatment geared at improving blood flow, reducing muscle tension, removing pressure on the discs, and creating a better flow within the spinal column can drastically reduce the frequency and intensity of headaches. Chiropractic adjustments to align the spine, physical therapy to improve postural support, and modalities like ultrasound, Class IV Laser , traction, and massage all can be of great help. Sometimes, trigger point injections can help reduce the spasms as well. In certain instances, Botox to the musculature at the base of the skull can be of assistance in reducing the tension that causes headaches.

TMJ Disorders:

The Temporo-Mandibular Joint or TMJ is the large joint of the jaw. It actually has a disc that can become very loose or even trapped causing popping and locking of the jaw usually on one side. For some, the joint can get very tight from trauma, teeth grinding, and other issues. TMJ disorders are very frustrating and painful.

Forward head posture is actually the primary contributing factor for TMJ disorders. Correcting posture, loosening a tight TMJ or tightening a loose TMJ can restore proper motion to the jaw. Ultrasound or Class IV Laser to the joint capsule, strengthening exercises, chiropractic adjustments, and education of home treatment are a standard protocol. Combined with a comprehensive program, TMJ disorders are often treatable with conservative care.

Pinched Nerve / Stiff Neck:

Sometimes from improper pillow positions, quick movements, injuries in sports or accidents, one’s neck can feel like it is stuck in one position and moving to the painful side causes a sharp stabbing shock. This can be called a stiff neck, or a pinched nerve, or in medical terms acute torticollis. It is very painful, severely restricts range of motion, and can be accompanied by headaches and even nausea sometimes. Typically the underlying cause is a combination of joint capsular pain, severe muscle spasm, and nerve root irritation all compounding one another.

Getting to the root of the problem helps alleviate this painful condition. Modalities to reduce the spasm and pain like electrical stimulation, ultrasound, and Class IV Laser, moist heat, and gentle mobilizations can begin to restore motion to the locked segments. Once the pain and inflammation subside, deeper stretching, traction, and more aggressive mobilizations and adjustments can help fully restore function. Therapeutic exercises to turn the affected muscle groups back on, and massage are incorporated as well.

Radiating nerve pain / Slipped disc:

Radiating nerve pain often comes from an irritated or pinched nerve root in the cervical spine, but can also be while the nerves pass through the muscles of the anterior upper chest in what is known as cervical or thoracic radiculopathy. This compression and irritation can be from trauma, postural tightness impingement, repetitive stain from work tasks, or from degenerative changes. At times the pain can be numbness, pins and needles, burning, or shooting shocks. Pain can come and go depending on the source.

Often times, a combined approach of reducing inflammation and pressure at all sites of compression is key. Chiropractic adjustments, stretching, postural correction, are all paramount to relief. Modalities to reduce the spasm and pain like electrical stimulation, ultrasound, Class IV Laser, moist heat, can all help. Cervical traction should relieve pressure, as well. Rehabilitative exercises can strengthen and balance the musculature to reduce pressure on the nerve chain. A comprehensive approach will help reduce the nerve issues and restore proper function and relieve pain.

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