What do I do if I have neck pain when I turn my head?

In my experience this usually occurs as a result of a misalignment of the first cervical vertebra. This is because most of the rotation (or turning of your head) is a result of the normal functioning of the top two bones in your neck. When these bones are stuck in the wrong position it becomes difficult to rotate your neck.

How do I know if I have this?

  1. Usually, you have neck pain right below the back of your skull and high in your neck and usually on one side.
  2. It is difficult to turn your head. Usually, this difficulty is worse in one direction.
  3. It is difficult to tilt your head to the side, opposite of the direction that it is difficult to turn your head.
  4. Less often, people experience headache, ear pain and dizziness.

What can I do to help myself?

  1. Gentle range of motion exercises. When you have this condition, it could be helpful to go gently through a normal range of motion exercise. When doing so, make move your neck to the point of pain and stop. Do not push into the pain. It is beneficial to tilt your head forward then back, tilt head side to side, turn your head side to side – all within pain free range of motion. There is a saying that “motion is lotion for the joints.”
  2. Ice over the area of pain no longer than 20 minutes.
  3. The turtle neck exercise. It involves sitting in a good posture position and tucking your chin in, giving yourself a double chin, then pushing your chin outwards. Typically, three sets of 10 is enough to help.
  4. Isometric extension exercises. This is done by placing your hand behind your neck and gently pressing back into your hand with your neck, hold for three seconds.

What will a chiropractor do to fix this?

Fortunately, for those affected by this condition, this is one of the easiest things for a chiropractor to fix. Your treatment will start with an examination and possibly x-rays to determine the nature and cause of your neck pain. If a chiropractor is able to determine that you have a misalignment of the first cervical vertebra the examination will continue to determine the direction of the misalignment. This is important because every adjustment done by a chiropractor is specific to the exact segment of the spine being adjusted and the direction that the spine needs for correction. After the examination is finished, usually the chiropractor will do some type of preparation of the area to be treated. This could mean any number of things, in some offices ice is applied, in others electrical muscle stimulation, in some offices massage therapy to the area is applied. In my office, we use a vibracussor which is a specialized adjusting instrument the feels much like a massage and allows the muscle tissues in the area to relax. Secondly, in our office, we use an ETPS (electro therapeutic point stimulation) unit. Since I am certified in acupuncture, I use the ETPS to stimulate acupuncture points that would have an effect on the area.This will make it much easier for me to adjust the segments that are misaligned as it will relax the muscles involved. Next, the chiropractor will make a precise adjustment to your neck, there are many methods in which this could occur. Some chiropractors use a very slow and soft technique, some chiropractors use an adjusting instrument and some chiropractors use their hands to gently and precisely realign the vertebra back into its proper position. Lastly, a follow-up visit is needed which involves coming back after the first treatment. Normally, follow up adjustments are required. I find in my office about 5-6 treatments are necessary to cure a problem like this. Please keep in mind, if you have this condition as a result of a traumatic injury, it is imperative that you get evaluated by a chiropractor immediately.

Do you have this problem? Perhaps a family member or loved one has experienced or expressed these problems. Consultations in my office are always free. Schedule on our website or give us a call at 352-241-4111.