Head and Neck
Neck anatomy is a well-engineered structure of bones, nerves, muscles, ligaments and tendons. The spine itself is made up of bony segments called vertebrae with fibrous tissue called intervertebral discs between them. The cervical spine (neck) is delicate and houses the spinal cord that acts as a pathway for messages from the brain to control all aspects of the body. The cervical spine is remarkably flexible, allowing movement in all directions.
The neck begins at the base of the skull and through a series of seven vertebral segments (C1-C7) and leads to the thoracic spine (the upper- and mid-back). Because of its complex and intricate construction, and the many stresses and force that can be placed on it through a trauma or even just daily activities, the cervical spine is at risk for developing a number of painful conditions.
The most common type of headache comes from strain in the neck area. The average adult head weighs about 10-11 pounds, so when sitting with the head off-balance by even 5 degrees, the neck feels the strain. Unlike other muscles that can relax when you are not using them, the neck is always tense from supporting your head.
Osteopathic manipulation is a technique that the physician uses to locate and treat impingements and musculoskeletal dysfunction, some of which can go undetected with traditional imaging. Osteopathic Manipulative Therapy (OMT) helps to:
- Correct structural and tissue abnormalities in vertebrae, muscles, myofascial structures, etc
- Relieve joint restriction and misalignment
- Restore muscle and tissue balance
- Promote the movement of bodily fluids
Regenerative cellular therapy, such as platelet-rich plasma (PRP) injections and prolotherapy using your own stem cells help to heal tissues, such as tendons, ligaments, and cartilage, that are normally slow to heal. These biocellular treatments can also strengthen the connective tissues of the neck to make it more stable and help maintain the healthy adjustments from OMT.
Common conditions of the head and neck include:
- Cervical disc herniation/bulging disc. Herniation of a disc is when the jelly-like center of a rubbery fibrous disc in the vertebrae leaks out of the outer fibrous disc. This often forms a protrusion, or bulge, that can irritate nearby nerves and cause painful, burning, tingling and numbing sensations in the neck and/or arm.
- Cervical spondylosis. Cervical spondylosis refers to the degeneration of the cartilage and bones in the neck region. The condition results in neck pain radiating to the arms or shoulder and neck stiffness that gets worse over time.
- Cervical stenosis. Cervical stenosis is a narrowing of the spinal canal that protects the spinal cord and its branching nerves. The compression of the spinal cord by cervical stenosis known as myelopathy. The condition causes pain, numbness, and weakenss in the neck that can radiate to the arms, hands, and legs. Spinal cord compression can also result in problems with coordination/balance and even affect bladder control. If left to progress too long, cervical stenosis with myleopathy can cause permanent disability.
- Degenerative disc disease. Degenerative disc disease refers to gradual deterioration of the discs between the vertebrae (intervertebral discs) causing the spine to lose flexibility, elasticity, and shock absorbing ability.
- Neck strains and sprains. Any excessive stress on the ligaments and muscles may result in injury. A sprain or strain may result in neck pain, which develops immediately after the injury or may present after a few hours or even days after the injury. The pain is usually intense and pounding with a sudden onset. Pain may also radiate to the shoulder, upper back, or arms, and may be associated with muscle spasms. The affected region may be tender to touch with localized swelling and stiffness.
Some of the most common causes of stress on the soft tissues of the neck include lack of adequate warm up prior to sports, a fall, awkward position of the neck during sleeping, poor posture, and spear tackling in football. Motor vehicle accidents often result in severe neck sprains and strains called whiplash due to sudden unexpected movement of the neck.
- Headache. Pain in any region of the head is called a headache. It may involve one or both sides of the head and may radiate to the neck and shoulders. You may experience dull pressure, a throbbing sensation, or sharp pain that may last anywhere between an hour to days.
There are numerous causes of headache that fit into 2 main categories: primary and secondary headaches.
Primary headaches are caused by stress, anxiety, or certain triggers. They occur due to an overactive pain-sensitive region in the head and typically are not a symptom of an underlying disease. A few common primary headaches include:
- Migraine headaches. A migraine is a type of headache characterized by severe throbbing pain on one side of the head accompanied by secondary symptoms including nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light, sound, and/or smell. The exact cause of migraines is unknown, but they are thought to be due to dilation and constriction of blood vessels as a result of abnormal nerve communication.
- Tension headaches. Tension-type headache is the most common headache that is characterized by a dull pain and tightness in the head, neck, and shoulders on both sides. It generally results from tightening of the muscles in this area and may be either episodic (30 minutes to a week) or chronic (more than 15 days a month for 3 months).
Secondary headaches occur as a symptom of another condition. Common secondary headaches include:
- TMJ dysfunction. TMJ disorder is a general term that refers to pain or discomfort in the temporo-mandibular joint (TMJ) area that includes the jaw joint and the muscles surrounding it. Stress is the main cause of TMJ pain. Stress leads to habits like clenching and grinding your teeth that can cause muscle spasm and jaw pain.
- Acute sinusitis. When your nasal passages (sinuses) are inflamed this can cause swelling and mucus buildup, which results in headache and feeling of swelling and pain about the face and eyes.
- Middle ear infection. Is usually caused by a bacterial or viral infection and is most common in children. The infection can cause a build up of fluids and swelling of the nasal passages and eustachian tubes, causing pain and other symptoms.
- High blood pressure. Most people with high blood pressure do not have symptoms. A few may have headaches, which occur when blood pressure is at a severely high level.
- Brain aneurysm. An aneurysm is when a blood vessel in the brain balloons or bulges. Most brain aneurysms do cause symptoms or health problems. A sudden and very severe headache results from a ruptured or leaking aneurysm.
For more information on treatments for head and neck conditions please visit Our Services page.