Home Exercises for Neck Pain

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What To Do For Acute Neck Pain

I woke up with neck pain, what do I do next? 

Over the course of a lifetime, most of us will experience an acute episode of neck pain. Many of the patients I treat at Pro Chiro in Walton on the Hill are suffering from a recent development of neck pain. Whether it was caused by sleeping awkwardly or from checking your blind spot too quickly while driving, many of us do not know what to do next. Regardless of the cause, it is encouraged to have a medical professional perform a proper examination of any injury before self-treatment. Still, it is not always possible to have that done immediately. The following are some simple neck pain exercises that you can try at home to help manage your pain and symptoms. 

Move Your Neck

The first step anyone should take is to keep moving your neck. On many occasions, when pain develops, we actively avoid moving our neck because it hurts! This can cause the joints and muscles to seize and make recovery longer and harder. You should try to move your neck through any tolerable range of motion.

In some cases, your range of motion may be significantly decreased, but it is important to maintain whatever range of motion is tolerable. If your pain increases significantly with motion while seated or standing, you can try and perform your range of motion exercises while lying on your back. Taking gravity out of the equation can often increase the amount of tolerable mobility that you have. 

Go through all the different motions that our neck moves in. This includes looking over each shoulder (rotation,) bringing one ear to your shoulder (lateral bend) looking up and down with your head (flexion/extension,) and finally cervical protraction and retraction.  With each repetition, go as far as you can tolerate without increasing your symptoms and repeat. You may find your motion will increase with each repetition and each set. A drawing of a person Description automatically generated

Activate Your Neck Muscles

Once you have performed basic range of motion neck pain exercises, the next step is to begin activating your neck muscles. The best way to activate your muscles when you are experiencing a lot of neck pain is to perform what are called “isometric contractions.” An isometric contraction refers to activating a muscle without changing its length. 

The goal is to perform isometric contractions in all the same ranges of motion, as we previously discussed.

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Begin with rotational isometrics. Bring your hand to the side of your head and try and turn your head into your hand. Use your hand to stop your head from turning but continue to activate the musculature as though you would be looking over your shoulder. Meet the force of your head-turning with your hand. Hold this contraction for 10 seconds. Next, perform it looking over the other shoulder.

This same technique can be applied to your lateral bend motions and your flexion/extension ranges of motion. The goal is to activate all the muscles that move your head without having to produce movement.  These types of contractions can not only help build back strength in your injured neck, but they can also help moderate your pain.

Improve Your Upper Back Mobility

Finally, once you have increased your range of motion and then safely activated your cervical musculature, the final group of exercises to try at home for acute neck pain are thoracic mobility exercises.

On some occasions, we may experience too much pain in a certain region to perform exercises. When this occurs, we can work adjacent body regions and have a positive impact on your recovery. The most important adjacent region to work on when you have neck pain is the upper back (aka the thoracic spine.) When the upper back is restricted or immobile, the neck takes on increased stress. This can not only irritate the pain but in some cases, it can be an underlying factor leading to your pain.  The following are some thoracic mobility exercises that can be used to help unload the cervical spine and manage your neck pain. 

Thoracic spine extension over a foam roller. 

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While performing this exercise, roll the foam roller through the upper back until you feel a spot that is tight or restricted. Support your neck and extend backward over the foam roller. Hold for 10 seconds and repeat.

 

The last exercise is to address limited thoracic rotation.

An exercise called a “Can Opener” can be performed. 

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The exercise begins laying on your side with your knees and hands together. Slowly rotate only your upper body until you can no longer keep your knees together. Finish the exercise by bringing your hands back together.

These exercises are not designed to treat all forms of neck pain; rather, they are a great general place to start!  

Here is a video summarising some of these points, and showing some other exercises that may help you to recover from neck pain:

Thank you for taking the time to read through this blog post on neck pain. I hope you have found the information helpful and useful. If you have tried these exercises and are still experiencing neck pain, I would recommend booking in with a medical professional to have your neck checked out and get you on the road to recovery. 

Pro Chiro is a Chiropractic and Sports Injury clinic in Walton on the Hill, Surrey. We regularly update our Facebook page and Instagram page with useful videos that help you to reduce your pain and get back to living your life fully. 

Managing Low Back Disc Injuries

Man suffering from back pain

Managing Low Back Disc Injuries

Low Back Pain and Disc Injuries

The image that comes to mind when thinking of low back pain is a person half-bent over with a hand on the sore spot of their back.  Many of us have experienced low back pain, and you may recall feeling severely limited or even helpless during the acute phase of your last episode.   Feelings of pain and helplessness are some of the reasons why low back pain is one of the most common causes for patients to seek emergency care(1)!

Low back pain Chiropractor

In fact, over 80% of people have experienced at least one episode of low back pain in their lives, and up to a quarter of adults have experienced low back pain in the last three months(2,3)!  That’s pretty… painful to think about, actually.

On top of this, chronic low back pain is considered the second most common form of disability worldwide(3) and one of the most common causes for adults to see a family physician (4).

In the past, patients were told to “take it easy” during a flare-up of low back pain.  They may have been prescribed bed rest by their family physician, thinking that avoidance of movement would help relax spasming muscles and ease pain to more tolerable levels.

However, times have changed.  Treatment guidelines instead recommend specific exercise (4), gentle stretches, and other ways of staying active during the recovery process.  Total bed rest is to be avoided.

Why the change?

Part of the reasoning is anatomical.  Two types of muscles exist in our backs: superficial muscles (or surface muscles) and deep muscles (5).

Superficial muscles are used to perform motions like bending and twisting.  These muscles are strengthened by exercise that places stress on the muscles.  Think of the person at the gym lifting weights: they’re building and growing these superficial muscles.

Deep muscles, on the other hand, help stabilize the spine and maintain posture.  Physical activity such as yoga, walking, and more, helps keep them in shape.  Picture the jogger going for a mile or two before breakfast: they’re working on deep muscle strength.

Common Back Pain Scenario

A common scenario is bending over to pick something off the floor.  You may hear or feel a “pop” in your low back, followed by pain and muscle tightness.  You’re bent over, unable to fully stand upright, and your back suddenly hurts no matter what you do.  You go to bed – and stay there, unable to move because movement equals pain.  You call out of work because you can’t get out of bed.  You remain largely sedentary for a week, under the guise of “waiting it out.”

Man suffering from back pain

When a person goes on lengthy bed rest, the deep muscles in the back will weaken and begin to lose mass and strength.  This is a process known as atrophy (6).

As the pain subsides and the person feels some improvement, activity is slowly resumed.  In order to do this, the body will recruit the bending, twisting, superficial muscles to help stabilize the back.  Although they can function in this capacity, superficial muscles are NOT well-adapted for this function!  These superficial muscles will tire more easily, resulting in impaired normal movement or motor control.

This can place abnormal stress on the structures in the spine such as joints and muscles, as well as joints and muscles in other areas of the body, increasing the risk for additional musculoskeletal injuries (7,8).

There are specific exercises that help strengthen the stabilizing muscles that lie deep in our bodies, close to the spine.  Doctors of chiropractic regularly prescribe exercises to address an acute flare-up of low back pain and may suggest general activities, such as swimming or walking, to improve your overall fitness (8).  

Exercises For Low Back Disc Pain

Some specific exercises, known as McKenzie exercises, are especially effective for patients who are suffering from an intervertebral disc injury (4). “McKenzie exercises” is a term you may not be familiar with. Yet. But hang with me. They have become a staple in the conservative management of low back pain. They entail simple exercises that have very profound impacts on a patient’s low back pain. They are named after Robin McKenzie, the physical therapist who first began using them.

McKenzie exercises are designed to be used after a thorough evaluation from your medical practitioner. In fact, McKenzie refers to a method of mechanical diagnosis and series of therapeutic exercises prescribed based on the determined diagnosis. The exercises I will be teaching here are simply one protocol of McKenzie exercises. It is the most commonly followed protocol; however, it will not help every low back pain patient. This is also not a substitute for a mechanical examination. Instead it is a tool for patients in acute pain seeking relief until obtaining professional care. 

Lower Back Disc Injuries

In their most basic form, McKenzie exercises are most effective for patients suffering from intervertebral disc injuries. Disc injuries can cause a variety of low back symptoms from intense back pain to pain radiating into a lower extremity. These exercises may reduce the intensity of the pain and in some patients, eliminate it completely. 

When you are experiencing a disc bulge or herniation, the disc material will often protrude posteriorly. While there are other kinds of disc injuries, these are the most common. Disc injuries are extremely prevalent in today’s population. Many who seek medical care for these injuries will be told their options are rest or surgery. The body has the ability resorb the disc naturally, although in some severe cases surgery is necessary. McKenzie exercises are a mechanical tool that patients can use to help the body resorb this disc.

McKenzie extension exercises work because they force the spine to go into an extended position (when referencing the lumbar spine this means an “arched” back position). This arch will actually cause the two vertebrae to close down over the disc at the posterior aspect. This “closing” of the disc space can actually cause the protruding disc material to retract back into the spine and relieve many of the symptoms associated with a lumbar spine disc injury.

Before performing these exercises there are a few things you should pay attention to:

While performing the exercises it is common to experience pain throughout the exercise. Often after multiple repetitions the pain intensity will begin to decrease. If you perform the exercises and the pain gets worse and stays worse these exercises may not be right for you.

If you are experiencing symptoms into your lower extremity, these exercises may also help reduce those symptoms. As you perform repetitions, pay attention to the intensity of the pain in your leg. Has it been improving? Does the pain travel as far as it did when you began? If either of these occur continue with more sets and repetitions. These exercises may be right for you. It should be noted that even if symptoms in the lower extremity begin to trace back up the leg or decrease, it is not uncommon to simultaneously have increased pain in the low back. It sounds counterintuitive, but increased back pain is not always a bad sign when the pain in your leg is improving.  Typically, when there is radiating pain in the lower extremity, to get rid of the pain completely (from the leg AND back) the leg pain must be eliminated first. While performing these exercises, we often see the pain tracing up the leg towards the back becoming more intense, but over a smaller surface area. The smaller the area of pain, regardless of intensity, the closer you are to abolishing it completely.

How do we perform these exercises? 

You can begin these exercises in a standing or prone (on your stomach) position. When standing you will put your hands at the base of your spine and drive your hips forward. The goal is to push your hips over your toes or past them. Take the stretch to the point of pain or until you are unable to go any further and repeat.

If you are on your stomach, keep your hips on the floor and bring your hands up to your chest as if you are doing a push up. Push your chest up, going as far as you can without lifting your hips. If you are in a lot of pain, you may only move a couple inches. Do not force yourself through the pain. Let each repetition gradually improve your range through these exercises. 

You can see a demonstration of the above exercise at the 20 seconds mark in this video:

A good place to start is with 3 sets of 10 repetitions. If the pain increases after three sets, it may not be the right exercise for your condition. If you experience no change or even mild improvement, perform more repetitions to see if you can create lasting improvement. For many patients these exercises may not only help decrease overall pain but also are useful for mitigating flare ups.

Remember these are just one of many different types of McKenzie exercises. You may require a different direction or progression of exercises. This is a great place to start if you are on your own but remember – it is highly recommended to get a proper evaluation from a McKenzie practitioner to determine exactly which exercises will treat your individual ailment.

I hope you have found this post helpful and informative. If you would like to keep up to date with our other posts, remember to follow us on Facebook and Instagram

References

Casiano, V.E., and De, N.K. (2020). Back pain. StatPearls. StatPearls Publishing: 2020 Jan.

“Back pain fact sheet.” (2014). National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Retrieved March 2020 from: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Low-Back-Pain-Fact-Sheet

Allegri, M., et al. (2016). Mechanisms of low back pain: a guide for diagnosis and therapy. F1000Research, 5, F1000 Faculty Rev-1530. 

Casazza, B. (2012). Diagnosis and treatment of acute low back pain. Am Fam Physician; 85(4): 343-350.

 Netter, F. (2011). Atlas of human anatomy. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders/Elsevier.

Dirks, M.L., et al. (2016). One week of bed rest leads to substantial muscle atrophy and induces whole-body insulin resistance in the absence of skeletal muscle lipid accumulation. Diabetes 65; (10):2862-75.

Belavy, D.L., et al. (2007). Superficial lumbopelvic muscle overactivity and decreased contraction after 8 weeks of bed rest. Spine 32(1), E23-E29.

“Low back pain.” (2020). American Academy of Family Physicians. Retrieved from https://familydoctor.org/condition/low-back-pain.

What will a Chiropractor do on the first visit?

Josh French, sports chiropractor, performing soft tissue release for a shoulder sports injury.

What will a Chiropractor do on the first visit?

A lot of the patients that come in to see us at Pro Chiro for the first time are unsure of what to expect out of their first visit. They wonder what the initial consultation with our Surrey chiropractor entails. This blog post is intended to answer the question “What will a Chiropractor do on the first visit?”

Josh French, sports chiropractor, performing soft tissue release for a shoulder sports injury.

The Importance of the First Visit

The first visit is a very important session because it is where we get to know you and the problem you have come in for. It is this session that sets us up for success and get you back on the road to recovery. The first visit is where we collect all the information we need to diagnose your problem and form a plan of how to get you back pain-free, stronger and more resilient than before. 

Learning Your Motivation

One of the most important parts of the first visit is learning about why you have come in to see us. For example, if someone has back pain for 6 months, it is important to understand why they have decided to come in now rather than earlier. Perhaps the pain worsened recently. Or maybe it has suddenly started affecting daily activities. Or perhaps they have tried everything else and want to give chiropractic treatment a go. Whatever the case may be, it is important for us to understand your personal motivations for seeking our help.

Thorough Health History

A big part of the consultation is taking a thorough health history. We will ask for details about the problem you have come in for. Details such as when the problem started, what activities are affected, any radiating symptoms etc. We need to find out as much as we can about your problem so we can be sure to understand how to correct it in the short term, and in the long term stop it from coming back.

On top of this, we also need to find out about any previous injuries or health problems you have had. Some of this information may seem bizarre and off topic to you, but we can’t leave any stone uncovered. We don’t want to miss out on any information that may give us clues as to your health picture.

Full Body Assessment

After the history taking has been completed, we will move on to the assessment. This assessment is part of what sets us apart at Pro Chiro and allows us to deliver a high level of success. To assess the problem you have come in for, we look at the entire body for information. We will ask you to perform some movements tests as well as some functional assessment tests. We will then feel through the muscles and joints through your spine and also in the area where you are experiencing a problem. While it is obviously important to assess the area where the problem is, it is also important to look at the whole body. Sometimes the root of the problem may be in a different location to where the problem is felt. If we only ever assessed the exact area where the pain is, we may only ever mask the symptoms rather than correct the cause of the problem for good. 

A Full Explanation

After we have enough information from the assessment, we will report our findings to you. We will explain what we have found and how it relates to the problem you have been experiencing. We will explain what we can do about it to fix the cause of the problem and stop it from coming back again. This step is so important because the better you understand the problem the more you will understand how you can help it too.

Your First Treatment 

After we have explained to you your problem and how to fix it, if you consent we will begin with the first treatment. On the first visit the treatment we do is meant to give you the most improvement possible straight away. This will start you on the road to recovery. We will also take the time to show you specific exercises and stretches that will help you manage the problem and correct the underlying cause of the problem. 

Conclusion

We hope this answers any questions you had about what chiropractor’s do on the first visit. If you have any other questions, feel free to get in touch with us on Facebook or Instagram, or send us an email.

What does a Chiropractor do?

Josh French, Surrey chiropractor and clinical director of Pro Chiro spine and Sports Chiropractic, performing a spinal adjustment on a patient with low back pain.

What Does A Chiropractor Do?

First Visit at Surrey Chiropractor

One of the most common questions people have when they wonder whether they should go to a chiropractor is “What does a chiropractor do?” Many people wonder this, and we are frequently asked this question when patients come in for their first visit at our chiropractic clinic in Surrey.

Josh French, Surrey chiropractor and clinical director of Pro Chiro spine and Sports Chiropractic, performing a spinal adjustment on a patient with low back pain.

What Do Chiropractor’s Do?

The short answer is this: Chiropractors are trained to assess, diagnose and manage musculoskeletal and trapped nerve problems. In more detail, this means we are able to help patients overcome problems related to muscles, joints or irritated nerves. This includes things like back pain, neck pain, shoulder problems and nerve entrapments in the neck or low back. We are also able to help patients with disc problems.

The Pro Chiro Approach

The actual assessment and treatment you will receive depends on the individual chiropractor and can differ quite wildly chiropractor to chiropractor. Our Surrey Chiropractor, Josh French, uses a functional approach, trying to find the root cause of the problem rather than just mask any symptoms. This approach allows patients to overcome the problem for good, rather than allow it to return again in the future. This approach is also excellent for when working with athletes as it helps people maximise their performance. Sometimes athletes come in to see Josh with preventable physical limitations such as stiff ankles, hips or a stiff upper back. These limitations stop athletes reaching their optimal performance. It is therefore essential to remedy this for athletes and the general population too.

Progressive Exercise Plan

Chiropractors use a variety of different treatment techniques, depending on the patient preference and the type of problem they have. At our clinic in Surrey, we also use a progressive exercise based approach. This is aimed at getting our patients fitter and stronger than they were before the pain started. This ensures our patients are self-dependent and don’t become overly reliant on chiropractic care to fix them. Rather, our patients are able to help themselves with their exercise programmes.

Conclusion

We hope this answers any questions you had about what chiropractor’s do. At Pro Chiro, we strive to allow our patients to be their best, free from injury and pain. If you have any other questions, feel free to get in touch with us on Facebook or Instagram, or send us an email

Yours in Health, 

Josh.