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(FAQs) Head and Neck Pain

Neck Pain when Turning Head

Headaches and neck pain are amongst the most common conditions treated by Dr. Melander at North Shore Spine and Sport.

Countless people suffer from headaches and neck pain that are a pervasive problem due to rampant computer and cell phone usage.  Fortunately, there is a great deal of treatment strategies, lifestyle changes, and exercises that can improve and ultimately mitigate the likelihood of any recurrence.

  • Neck pain when turning head
  • Neck pain when tilting head back
  • Neck pain when looking down
  • Neck pain left side and neck pain right side

Many people report neck pain that occurs with certain ranges of motion of the neck like turning the head, tilting the head back, or looking down. In cases where a pain experience is persistent and does not improve with activity modification, then an evaluation with a trained healthcare provider is advisable.

    For these types of neck pain, chances are there is some kind of mechanical restriction to range of motion that may be caused by a joint fixation or muscle and connective tissue tensioning.  These types of neck pain are very easily managed with the methods Dr. Melander uses every day. 

    Neck Pain when Sleeping | Neck Pain when Waking up

    It is common for people suffering with neck pain to notice increased pain when they are sleeping or first upon waking up.

    • Neck pain when sleeping
    • Neck pain when waking up

    In simple cases of neck mechanical dysfunction, the increased pain at night or upon waking is likely due to the lack of movement inherent to sleeping.  Generally speaking when we can move around, we feel better.

    Alternatively, when we do not move we can start feeling stiff and uncomfortable.  In more complicated cases of neck pain, like with a disc bulge for example, the spinal discs hydrate at night which causes a slight increase to their size.

    If a person is suffering from a symptomatic disc bulge, the increased size of the disc from hydration coupled with a lack of movement can cause an increased pain experience at night or upon waking.  Either of these examples are easily managed in a clinical environment.

      Neck Pain Back of Head

      The most common variety of headache that Dr. Melander treats at North Shore Spine and Sport is a tension headache, sometimes called a cervicogenic headache, that is often experienced at the base of the skull.

      • Neck pain back of head
      • Pain in back of head at base of skull and neck
      • Neck pain and headaches in back of head

      The causes of this kind of headache are varied but often involve stress, computer or desk work, staring at cell phones, etc.  There are multiple tissues in the upper neck that refer pain into the base of the skull such as the 1st and 2nd cervical vertebrae and the suboccipital musculature (small muscles between the skull and 1st/2nd cervical vertebrae).  

      When properly treated, these headaches are often improve almost immediately with long periods of resolve thereafter.

      Neck Pain Causes

      Neck pain causes are innumerable but by far the most common driver of neck pain that Dr. Melander treats is from cumulative strain conditions.  Many people report increasing neck tension and neck pain after many days and long hours staring at computers and cell phones.  These situations are easily managed with activity modification and treatment.

      Neck Pain Symptoms

      Neck pain symptoms are usually experienced more toward one side of the neck than the other but may present on both sides.  Sometimes there may be a numbness or tingling or pain that seems to refer from the neck into the upper back, shoulder blades, or anywhere along the arm.

      Neck Pain Treatment, Neck Pain Relief

      At North Shore Spine and Sport, Dr. Melander uses a combination of hands-on manual therapy like joint manipulation, Active Release Techniques®, Functional Range Release®, Instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilization, along with mobility or strength training for neck pain treatment and neck pain relief.

      Neck Pain Exercises, Neck Pain Stretches

      As with most injuries and pain scenarios, Dr. Melander believes in first restoring range of motion then making someone strong within that range of motion. In that vein, some neck pain exercises or neck pain stretches should include Neck CARs and Neck PAILs/RAILs to both utilize large amounts of neck range of motion and to create strength within that range of motion.

      Common Questions About Neck Pain

      Why does my neck hurt at the base of my skull?

      Often neck pain at the base of the skull is a sign of a cervicogenic headache, also referred to as a tension headache.  This occurs for many people who are stressed or experiencing some kind of repetitious strain to the muscles in the top of the neck.

      Can neck pain be a sign of something serious?

      In the overwhelming number of cases, no, neck pain is not a sign of something serious.  However, neck pain accompanied with symptoms like dizziness, severe headache, vision changes, difficulty speaking, loss of control or loss of sensation in a limb or your face, may indicate a serious or life-threatening condition.  If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, please call 911.

      How do you get rid of neck and head pain?

      As a general rule, modify the activities that seem to provoke neck and head pain.  Also, reduce daily stress if possible.  Some methods that may help include regular exercise, meditation, anti-inflammatory dieting, better sleep, etc.  If these methods do not help, seek a consult with a trained healthcare provider who can help evaluate your head and neck pain and guide you to recovery.

      When should I be concerned about neck pain?

      When should I be concerned about head pain?  Concerning symptoms associated with neck and head pain include dizziness, severe headache, vision changes, difficulty speaking, loss of control or loss of sensation in a limb or your face all of which may be signs of a serious or life-threatening condition.  If you do not have these symptoms but your headache and neck pain have not improved with simple lifestyle changes, various treatment methods can be utilized which should yield immediate relief.

      How do I get my neck to stop hurting?

      Start by modifying any activities that clearly provoke neck pain, if that does not help, seek a consultation with a trained healthcare provider who can evaluate your neck pain and guide you to recovery.

      When is a stiff neck serious?

      A stiff neck is likely only a serious medical concern if there are signs/symptoms of greater neurologic compromise such as dizziness, severe headache, vision changes, difficulty speaking, loss of control or loss of sensation in a limb or your face.

      Tension Headache vs. Cervicogenic Headache

      A tension headache is often characterized by a generalized headache anywhere around the skull that is not associated with aura, light sensitivity, vision or hearing changes, difficulty speaking, dizziness, or loss of control or sensation in a limb or the face.

      A cervicogenic headache is differentiated perhaps only in name from a tension headache, but one might argue that a tension headache does not necessarily involve the neck, whereas a cervicogenic headache clearly originates from the neck.

      Causes of tension headaches and cervicogenic headaches include stress, poor sleeping habits, poor diet, insufficient exercise, and strain from long hours of staring at computers and other screens.

      Treatment of tension headaches and cervicogenic headaches should include activity modification, exercise, stress reduction, anti-inflammatory diet, and when necessary, therapy with a healthcare provider who can treat any of the areas of muscle tension and joint fixation. 

      Common questions about tension headaches: 

      What triggers tension headaches? 
      Tension headaches are multi-factorial, but perhaps the most common cause of tension headaches is stress.  Some people with jaw issues report tension headaches that may be related to clenching their teeth.

      How long can tension headaches last?
      Most tension headaches are transient, meaning they will pass without intervention and in a relatively short period of time (a few days or less).  Dr. Melander would advise you seek a consult with a trained healthcare provider if a headache recurs or persists for longer than a few days.

      Are tension headaches serious? 
      A true tension headache is not likely to be a serious problem.  If the headache is associated with any unusual symptoms like dizziness, vision changes, nausea, difficulty speaking, loss of control or sensation in a limb or the face, then consult with a medical professional immediately.

      Common questions about cervicogenic headaches: 

      What does cervicogenic headache feel like?
      Generally a cervicogenic headache is characterized by a pain along the base of the skull at the top of the neck.  The term cervicogenic literally means “derived from neck”, so most people will experience a pain in the neck that seems to refer somewhere in the head.

      How do you treat a cervicogenic headache? 
      Stress reduction, sleep, and movement are great self-care strategies to reduce headache symptoms or persistence.  Dr. Melander uses a combination of joint manipulation and hands-on manual therapy to treat cervicogenic headaches, which usually yields immediate relief.

      How long do cervicogenic headaches last?
        Some may last only hours, some may last for days.  Any headache that is more than transient (a few hours or a couple days), should be evaluated by a healthcare provider.

      Can cervical neck problems cause headaches?
      Absolutely yes 

      our Chiropractic

      Dr. Melander has often described his work as new-school rehab, which is to say, an amalgamation of current best practices regarding pain or injury management, hands-on manual therapy or strength/mobility training, and endless advocacy and support for his patients.

      In Dr. Melander’s opinion, the best providers in the field of musculoskeletal injury are able to draw from multiple disciplines to create the most efficient and impactful care strategy for their patients.  If you are injured or hurting and not sure what to do, please reach out, it will be our greatest pleasure to help you.

      We serve Newburyport and surrounding North Shore communities, including: Newbury, West Newbury, Rowley, Byfield, Georgetown, Amesbury, Salisbury, Ipswich, Seabrook NH, Hampton NH, Rye NH.

      Chiropractic FAQs

      We've compiled a list of common chiropractic questions to help you get all the answers you are looking for. If you have additional questions if our chiropractic and treatment services in North Shore would be a good fit for you, please contact our team. 

      How do I know if I should see a chiropractor?

      Chiropractors are trained in the evaluation and management (IE: treatment) of issues affecting the neuromusculoskeletal system (muscles, joints, connective tissue, nerves).  Many people associate chiropractic care with the spine only, but this is an inaccurate reflection of many chiropractors in the 21st century who are experts in treating spinal issues AND extremity issues (arms and legs).  As a general rule of thumb, if you have a painful condition that does not get better given a few days of activity modification you may want to consult a professional like a chiropractor.  Your chiropractor should be able to evaluate your painful condition, offer you some perspective and guidance relative to the painful condition, and help you care for the painful condition if treatment is warranted.  Like any profession though, each chiropractor has different clinical experience and different post-graduate education that may lend their practice toward a focus on sports injuries or pregnancy/neonatal care or neurologic issues or nutritional issues to name just a few.  If you are considering seeing a chiropractor, make sure that their experience and skill set seems like a proper match for your complaint and your ultimate goals.

      How do I choose a good chiropractor?

      Choosing a good chiropractor does not have to be a complicated process.  To begin with, ask your friends or family if they know someone they trust and can vet for you.  Next, check online as most chiropractors should have fairly informative websites relative to their clinical interests and experience that may help indicate whether they are a good fit for your issue.  If you are still not sure who to see after taking those steps, call your prospective chiropractor’s office as either the staff or the chiropractor will be more than happy to answer any questions and tell you if your issue is something commonly treated in that office.  Many people also like to read online reviews and while some online reviews can be misleading, if the significant majority of a chiropractor’s reviews are super positive then chances are you can trust the expertise of that provider.  Lastly, and arguably the most important step in choosing a good chiropractor, remember that you are in total control of your healthcare decision making.  If you go to an initial or follow-up appointment and you are not absolutely confident in the assessment and plan your chiropractor has rendered, then seek a second opinion.

      What can a chiropractor fix?

      A chiropractor can help you fix a wide variety of painful conditions related to the neuromusculoskeletal system such as headaches, back/neck pain, shoulder/elbow/wrist/hand pains, hip/knee/ankle/foot pains to name just a few.  Injuries of actual orthopedic compromise like fractures are best handled by orthopedists, but chances are if your pain/injury is non-surgical in nature then a chiropractor may be a great option to help you.  The best chiropractors will explain what they can about your pain/injury, offer guidance and likely treatment as efficiently as possible (days to weeks, maybe months in extreme situations), and then remove themselves and let your brain/body do the rest.  A great deal of research these days indicates that in many healthcare interactions providers should try and limit their patient’s dependency on them, opting instead for interventions and language that fosters resiliency and self-efficacy (independence).

      What happens at your first chiropractic appointment?

      Your first chiropractic appointment should include a detailed discussion of your health history and presenting complaint(s), an examination of your complaint(s), a discussion regarding what is indicated by the examination relative to prognosis and treatment plan, and finally some form of treatment/intervention assuming time permits.  Many painful conditions can be evaluated thoroughly and completely in a matter of minutes and certain treatment interventions could yield immediate relief, while other conditions may require more complex evaluations and more lengthy treatment plans.  Above all, you should leave your first chiropractic appointment feeling confident that your chiropractor is the best option to help you with your problem and you should leave feeling confident that you are on the road to recovery.

      How often should you see a chiropractor?

      You should see a chiropractor as often as you want or need.  Perhaps the most common criticism of chiropractors is that chiropractors “need to see you for the rest of your life”, and while there are unfortunately examples of chiropractors who advocate for this kind of dependency, the significant majority of chiropractors today want to help you as quickly as possible with no long-term commitments of any kind.  The best chiropractor will see you the minimally necessary number of times to help you overcome your issue and suggest you follow-up if there are any residual issues or new complaints sometime in the future.  Many patients however recognize how good they feel after chiropractic care and therefore wish to see their chiropractor with some kind of recurring frequency (IE: once/month, twice/year, or more).  These examples though should be dictated by the patient based on their assessment of their body’s needs and absolutely not dictated by the chiropractor based on some kind of pseudoscientific reasoning.

      Does insurance pay for chiropractor?

      In many cases, yes, insurance will help pay for chiropractic care assuming the chiropractor is participating with your health insurer.  If your chiropractor is not participating with health insurance, then it is still possible you have an out-of-network benefit with your insurer and can seek reimbursement that way.

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