Upper Cervical Instability Explained.
Upper Cervical Instability Explained
I was recently asked the following question:
"What is the main cause my neck pain when my neck has been deemed unstable, and is there something I can do to relieve the pain myself?"
First of all, from all the questions I get from patients, the question of "What is causing my neck pain when my neck has been deemed unstable" is without doubt the number one question I get asked.
The simple answer is: An involuntary over-activity of the muscles located in the general vicinity of that unstable portion of your neck.
What exactly does that mean? Well, that is a much more complicated answer, but can be simplified to the following:
When ligaments are injured in the neck from trauma, such as seen in any situation where the neck is whipped front to back, side to side, or rotation, OR any combination of front to back, side to side, or rotation, the vertebrae in the neck at the spot of the injured ligaments end up moving MORE than a normal amount. Because they move more (either slide, bend, or turn) than they are intended to move, the muscles that attach to these vertebrae get stretched more than they are supposed to normally. This stretch results in an involuntary contraction (just like when a doctor taps you under the knee cap and your leg kicks out), which cannot be consciously controlled.
The end result of this, is a muscle (or muscles) that are getting over-worked, without the option to take a break. Any muscle that has this involuntary contraction forced upon it, will burn out and eventually lock up. Locking up is how it protects itself from being injured as it weakens from perpetual contraction. Once locked up, it is painful, weak, stiff, and can often refer pain to other areas. These are known as Trigger Points. Trigger Points have become universally accepted as pain generators, no matter what form of healthcare you are in, and there are many different approaches (both invasive and non-invasive) that healthcare practitioners implement to try and relieve the symptoms caused by these Trigger Points.
On a side note, it is my opinion that the cause of the Trigger Points is far too seldom sought out. It is also my opinion that the most common cause for a Trigger Point that just keeps coming back, is some extent of joint instability, usually from a major injury of several smaller injuries to the same area.
Is there something you can do to relieve the pain yourself? Yes, but it must be done regularly, diligently, and to your maximum pain tolerance. If done this way, amazing results can be achieved.
I have seen such a tremendous need for this type of home therapy in my large neck instability patient population, that I spent the better part of two years designing and producing a home-use device for the treatment of Trigger Points. It has become known as Dr. B's Trigger Pointer or Dr. B's Back Relever.
From a general standpoint, seeking out the Trigger Points and using the device to press on them for 15 seconds per spot, will result in relief. Assuming that instability is causing the Trigger Points to arise and return, repeated use of the device is most beneficial.
As it pertains to Upper Cervical Instability, the exact way to use it, and using it for specific muscles, must be preceded by a very specific and detailed Motion X-ray examination of the neck. Once the exact instability locations are determined, the exact muscles can be targeted with the device, and will usually be limited to those muscles. One can then see that treating LESS areas, but treating the predetermined specific areas, based on Motion X-ray diagnosis, provides incredible results, with less effort.
I hope that these answers help to explain the mechanism and response of the tissues.
Please bear in mind that determining whether or not you have Upper Cervical Instability, is the first step in getting the best treatment, whether home-based or in a clinic somewhere.
Cold pack - First help with pain
Ice is one of the simplest, safest and most effective self care techniques for injury, pain or discomfort in muscles and joints
During an initial injury, tissue damage can cause uncontrolled swelling. This swelling can increase the damage of the initial injury and delay the healing.
If you use ice immediately within the first 48 hours, you can reduce the healing time by up to 80%
When you visit us at the Whiplash and Injury Clinic, ask about our Cold Packs. Our gel-filled Cold Packs are made of the most durable materials. It is a silky nylon/pvc material that is smooth against the skin.
This 5x8 inch cold pack fits comfortably around your neck or wrapped over your shoulder, wrist, ankle, knee or any other injured area