When neck injuries occur, like after car accidents, sports injuries, or even wear and tear, the sufferer often lives with disabling symptoms. In this article, we are not referring to a catastrophic neck injury, but one that very often may be considered minor. Yet the sufferer still lives with symptoms that alter their ability to live normally. The reason may very well be instability in the neck and related to the uniqueness of the neck itself.
The neck is unique because it consists of vertebrae that are smaller and more mobile than all of the movable vertebrae of the spine. Another name for the neck is the cervical spine. The high degree of mobility in the neck or cervical spine is necessary in order to move the head through all the different ranges of motion we put it through. Blood is also transported through the neck on the way to the brain by means of the vertebral artery, which goes up through an opening called the transverse foramina in the vertebrae of the neck. Why are these features important when discussing neck pain, symptoms, and instability? Well first of all, although the mobility of the neck is great and necessary in order to get things done and function like we like to, this same feature makes us vulnerable to injury.
Secondly, when an injury to the neck occurs, ligaments are affected. The ligaments are structures that are primarily responsible for joining bones, and they are especially vulnerable when trauma occurs. When the neck is stable, it moves and functions normally, while remaining in proper alignment, which protects the blood vessels, nerves and spinal cord. But injury to the ligaments changes this whole dynamic, because it causes the cervical spine to become unstable. With instability of the cervical spine comes inadequate support when the neck is called upon to function. Neck alignment is changed and a cycle of imbalance is created between the different neck structures. This causes too much movement of the neighboring vertebrae which stresses the ligaments that support them, and puts undue pressure on the nerve endings within those structures. The result is pain! It also sets into motion a host of other possible symptoms that can arise due to the various blood vessels and nerves running through the neck vertebrae.
People who have experienced whiplash, often have symptoms that seem to last and last. These symptoms are frequently a result of instability of the vertebrae of the neck, or in other words, cervical instability. Whiplash injuries are a common cause of cervical instability. The head is literally “whipped” in these injuries. The sudden acceleration and deceleration during rear end collisions is an example of whiplash, which generates a severe flexion and then an extension of the neck, in a whip-type motion forward and backward. The backward hyperextension is often associated with more injury to the muscles and ligaments, because it lacks the limiting effect of the chin meeting the chest in the forward “whip.” The excessive motion in hyperextension severely strains the involved muscles and ligaments. The motion also compresses the adjoining vertebrae.
If the person driving, for example, is looking in the rear view mirror at the time of collision, the rotated neck position puts the ligaments in an even greater vulnerability to injury, because these particular ligaments that help in side to side head movements are more susceptible in this position. As the ligaments become weaker, they are unable to provide a stable neck structure, which leads to even more injury, and an ongoing provocation of the nerve endings. The ongoing provocation alters a part of the nervous system called the sympathetic nervous system which becomes increasingly activated. This can result in a myriad of symptoms, including a syndrome of symptoms referred to as Barré-Liéou Syndrome.
Symptoms of neck or cervical instability include neck pain, muscle spasms, cracking sounds, and numbness in the arms and legs. Also, remember how we discussed the unique anatomical relationship of the vertebral arteries through the transverse foramina? Instability of the neck can cause a change in the flow of the arterial blood through the vertebrae when they are moving excessively. This artery provides circulation to half of the brain, so the extra mobile vertebrae can pinch it off, fostering an insufficiency of blood supply as it travels up to the brain. The condition is called vertebrobasilar insufficiency (VBI) with its associated symptoms of neck pain, headaches/migraines, dizziness, drop attacks, dizziness, difficulty swallowing and/or speaking, and disturbances in hearing and vision.
All of these symptoms can perplex many clinicians. Meanwhile, the sufferer lives with debilitating symptoms, oftentimes going from doctor to doctor, seeking some type of relief from the many and varied symptoms they experience. Chiropractors do a great job at not only assessing these problems but treating them. But when Chiropractors are not able to solve the problem, or find a complete solution, one must look elsewhere. Talk with your chiropractor about Regenerative Orthopedics and what it can do to save your neck from surgery. Many chiropractors know Peter A. Fields, MD, DC, and have heard him lecture, as Dr. Fields is both an MD and a chiropractor.
Regenerative Orthopedics is actually a great solution to the puzzle of cervical instability, because the regenerative therapies like Stem Cell Therapy, PRP, and Prolotherapy, repair the injured ligaments that are at the core of the problem. Regenerative Orthopedics are regenerative injection therapies that tighten, repair, and regenerate the ligaments involved in neck instability, eliminating the unstable movement, associated pain, and multiple symptoms. Regenerative Orthopedics is a safe non-surgical option that brings stability back to the neck and its structures, which results in increased functional ability. Those who suffer from these symptoms as a result of instability of the neck or cervical spine can finally get relief from this life-altering condition.