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Why Young People Need Chiropractic Now More Than Ever
According to a recent study published in BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, "It is now widely acknowledged that neck pain (NP), mid back pain (MBP), and low back pain (LBP) (spinal pain) start early in life and that the lifetime prevalence increases rapidly during adolescence to reach adult levels at the age of 18."
9 Common Causes of Thyroid Imbalance and How You Can Help
How you sleep, how easily you wake up, and how much energy and stamina you have during the day are directly related to levels of the thyroid hormones.
New Medical Technologies You Need to Know
We're all familiar with how fast computers become obsolete, as well as the rapid pace of development in the field of cell phone technology. The latest smart phones are far more powerful than desktop computers were only a few years ago.
News in Brief
National Chiropractic Health Month: Be Proactive; Collegiate Roundup: Academic Appointments at Parker, Logan.
Chiropractic Research in Review
Chiropractic Treatment of Lateral Epicondylitis; Cost / Benefit Analysis: Different Doses of SMT for Low Back Pain; Imaging for Occult Rib and Costal Cartilage Fractures; Treating Neck Pain: Thoracic Thrust Manipulation vs. Non-Thrust Mobilization.
Waking Up the Gluteus Maximus
In previous articles in this series, we expounded on the importance of the gluteus maximus (GM) in athletic performance and protecting the knee from injury. We also know there is a link between iliotibial band syndrome and GM weakness.
A Guide for Talking to Doctors about Acupuncture and Brain Chemistry
Before I begin any discussion of how to talk about the effects of acupuncture on brain chemistry, nervous and endocrine function, it is essential to understand just what physicians most need help with.
Peer Points: Always Seeking To Grow
Ellen "Kiki" Geary has spent the last decade honing her craft. As a specialist in integrative holistic care, she went straight from completing her master's degree in acupuncture and chinese herbal medicine from Bastyr University to building a successful and thriving practice in the small community of Anacortes, Washington.
CCE Finally Takes a "Baby Step" Toward Reform
During a 16-month period from October 2010 to February 2012, I devoted four separate columns to the heavy-handed attempt by the Council on Chiropractic Education to radically change the chiropractic profession through the accreditation process.
MPA Media Wins 7 Publishing Awards
MPA Media, publisher of Dynamic Chiropractic and DC Practice Insights, among other titles, has been recognized for editorial and design excellence with an unprecedented seven publishing awards by the American Society of Business Publication Editors (ASBPE), the nation's largest organization for business-to-business publications.
A History Worth Telling
The popularity and the use of acupuncture for the treatment of animals in the United States is at its peak.
Don't Turn a 2 Into a 10
The Wong-Baker FACES Pain Rating Scale1 is so useful because it can be used by almost anyone. Patients can use the numbers associated with the faces depicted on the scale or select the face that demonstrates their current level of pain from 0-10.
A Chinese Medicine Story: An Interview with Mazin Al-Khafaji
Mazin Al-Khafaji's work has interested me for years. In February 2014, we invited him for the second time to speak at the Southwest Symposium in Austin, Texas.
A Vibrating Capsule for Constipation? Relevance to Your Chiropractic Practice
The relationship between gastrointestinal (GI) complaints and back pain is not typically written about or discussed.
Finders Keepers: The Secret to Relationship-Based Marketing
Becoming a successful practitioner has less to do with what you learned in school, and more to do with your ability to find new patients and keep them!
Building From the Bottom Up
I caught up with my dear friend Honora Wolfe, in her Colorado painting studio where, if she is not praying in Bhutan or doing charitable work in a Nepali free clinic, she spends most of her time now.
Medical Qigong for the Heart: Part III
Part 1 and Part II of this series focused on the physical aspect of the Heart and mental emotional aspects of the Heart respectively. Now, I would like to focus on the spiritual aspect of the Heart.
October, 2012, Vol. 12, Issue 10
Neck Pain: You Just Have to Move Like Jagger
By Sheri Wells
Have you ever seen an old video of Mick Jagger performing on stage? One of his vintage moves was to strut across the stage with one hand on his hip while moving his head forward and backward like a chicken.An article appearing in the Wall Street Journal titled: "Neck Pain? Skip the Pills, Just Stretch Like a Chicken" is about the first large federally funded study on neck pain. This published study found that simple home exercises, increasing cervical range of motion, are more effective at relieving acute and sub acute neck pain than medication. Dr. Bronfort, the lead author, said that a neck retraction exercise, or chicken-like maneuver of the head, in which people pull their heads back and then tilt their chins slightly downward "seemed to be especially useful." Maybe Mick Jagger was practicing preventative neck pain exercises?
Neck pain affects around 70 percent of people sometime during their lives. This is a common condition that you most likely see in your clients every day. Neck pain can be caused by many factors including:
Along with the above factors, as we age we begin to lose the fight with gravity and the head starts to slowly, progressively move forward on the neck and shoulders. Part of the problem is that the cervical muscles are simply not strong enough to resist the force of gravity. According to Erik Dalton's article, "Forward Head Posture: The 42 Pound Head," for every inch of forward head posture, the weight of the head on the spine is increased by an additional ten pounds. Through basic anatomy and physics, he explains that a normal head centered on the spine weighs about twelve pounds, but once it starts to move forward on the neck by just an inch, it weighs approximately 22 pounds. In comparison, a gallon of milk weighs about eight pounds. What would happen if you carried a gallon of milk in your hands out in front of you all day long? Wouldn't the muscles of the arms be extremely tired and possibly sore or painful by the end of the day? So, why wouldn't we expect the neck to start to complain with an additional ten pound load on it? Plus, realize that if the head is tilted or shifted to one side that this also increases the weight of the head on the spine and creates compensation patterns traveling down the body as the brain tries to keep the eyes level with the horizon.
As manual therapists, what can we do about this condition? First, educate your clients with the pain problems caused by forward head posture. You will see them immediately try to pull their head backward, but they may not be able to sustain this posture for very long. There are three main problems that need to be solved. The short term "fix," is for you to manually release the tight muscles creating forward head posture and to rebalance the head on the neck. Then, you need to gently stretch the tight muscles to restore normal cervical range of motion (ROM). Finally, the long term solution is to have the clients strengthen their weak anterior deep flexor muscles that are allowing the forward head posture to occur. Basically, to achieve and then maintain normal neck/head alignment, your ultimate goal, you must:
The above mentioned neck pain study involved teaching clients gentle, controlled movements including neck flexion, extension, lateral flexion, rotation and neck retraction. But, do not teach stretches or strengthening exercises if you feel that is outside your scope of practice or if your state does not allow it. As a manual therapist, however, you are allowed to assess and to restore normal cervical range of motion. And, if you are going to correct a neck problem this means you can gently mobilize/stretch your clients during a session to achieve normal ROM.
So, what is normal range of motion of the cervical spine and how do you assess it? Different publications vary with the ideal amount and a great reference is James Waslaski's book "Clinical Massage Therapy." He lists the normal ranges of motion, naming the muscles involved, along with a detailed twelve-step program of soft tissue work that can eliminate or prevent painful neck conditions.
Normal ranges of motion involving single plane movements for the cervical spine are: (Figures 1-4)
It is best to assess active range of motion before you begin your session with the client standing or seated. First, show the client the movement you would like them to perform; flexion, extension, lateral flexion or rotation. Ask them to only move their head as far as they can go without any discomfort. Note the amount of ROM and if it was normal or limited. Use a goniometer or simple plastic school protractor to determine the degree of ROM. If any of the motions had less than normal ROM, then have them gently repeat that same movement again several times and see if their ROM improves. Usually, it will improve 5-10 degrees just through this self mobilization. Make note of any limited ROM you find and your strategy will be to release the tight muscles/fascia that are restricting normal ROM.
Please note that as you restore normal cervical range of motion, you may also need to address forward shoulder posture and any other problems that may have contributed to forward head posture. You must treat the body as an entire structure to achieve better, long lasting results.
Once you have performed soft tissue work and created normal range of motion of the cervical spine, the next steps are to teach your client two simple exercises to stretch their tight cervical muscles: sternocleidomastoid, scalenes and suboccipitals and to strengthen their weak anterior neck flexors longus capitis, longus colli, platysma, sternohyoid and sternothyroid. This "homework" is what I have found is the most important part of correcting and maintaining normal head posture and what I teach every one of my clients (of all ages). If you teach your clients these corrective exercises, it empowers them to take charge of their own healing/wellness. You only see your client for an hour or so at a time and this gives them additional tools to use every day to maintain the normal ROM and structural alignment you achieved during your session.
First, teach them a corrective neck retraction stretch. Have them sit or stand upright and relax their shoulders moving them down and slightly backward (neutral posture). Then, have them place one finger on their chin. Ask them to slightly tuck their chin, and then move their head backward like a "chicken" or like Mick Jagger; whichever cue you prefer, while gently pressing on their chin. Have them hold this position for about two seconds and then release. They can repeat this stretch several times. Advise them to perform this gently and that mild discomfort is not ok. (Figures 5, 6)
The best times to perform this stretch is after daily activities that involve forward head posture: working on the computer, eating, watching TV, etc. Precaution note: this is rare, but if the client indicates pain or neurological symptoms (tingling, numbness in their neck, shoulders or arms), during this stretch, immediately have them return their head to neutral and refer them out.
Once the client has mastered the corrective stretch, teach them a corrective strengthening exercise they can perform every day in their car; "neck press backs." Advise them they can only perform this exercise if there is no discomfort or they are not allowed to do it. Before they start their car, tell them to sit upright and relax their shoulders down and backward (neutral posture). Then, have them slightly tuck their chin and move their head backward like a "chicken" or like Mick Jagger, while pressing back into their headrest (neck retraction). Have them hold this isometric contraction for 5 to 10 seconds, repeating this 2 to 3 times. They could also practice this when they are waiting at a stop light. I don't advise performing it while the car is moving. This is an easy exercise and something that they can and must do every day to help prevent or reverse forward head posture and the resultant pain that accompanies it. (Figures 7, 8)
According to the neck pain study, Dr. Bronfort says that for relief from neck pain "it's good news for patients that there's something they can do themselves." So, if you teach your clients to move like Mick Jagger; retracting their head, it may be one of the most important things you can do to help them relieve and prevent occasional and chronic neck pain.
Sheri Wells is a licensed massage therapist (LMT), and advanced personal trainer (CPT) with a Masters degree in education and a B.S in physical education. She specializes in orthopedic muscle balancing and therapeutic massage for injury rehab, scar tissue mobilization, and postural/structural alignment; restoring pain free normal range of motion throughout the body. She has been an upper level teaching assistant for James Waslaski for more than 10 years. She lives in Dallas and can be reached at
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