One of the main complaints I see within my clinic is the presentation of upper back and neck tightness and pain, with the presentation of restricted movement and a ‘heavy head’, along with regular spells of headaches and migraines. With many of these cases, the patient has informed they have had such issues for years, even decades, but have always felt they can ‘live with it’ and that it’s ‘part and parcel of life’. But as time passes, we find that these pains can slowly creep up on us until we can’t deal with them any longer, and it stops us from doing what we enjoy best, but can also make the road to recovery longer too.
With a lot of neuromuscular injuries, the formation of trigger points are responsible for chronic muscular pain and stiffness, as areas of muscle ‘switch off, becoming hypertonic and taut, creating a hypoxic environment within the muscle, promoting pain and restricting movement. The longer we leave these areas of muscle in this state, the weaker they become, and the more strain we place on surrounding musculature, increasing the chances of trigger points forming within these too. With greater strain placed on the surrounding muscles, the overloading of areas and the weakness presented in others predisposes muscles and joints to further injuries. With upper back and neck pathologies, we very commonly hear of shoulder complaints, whether that’s shoulder instability and weakness, or rotator cuff and shoulder joint pain, with many of these occurring as a result of years without addressing the original issue.
A whole range of factors can be included in the development of upper back pain and neck pathologies, from stress at home or work, long hours sitting at a desk or manual labour/repetitive lifting. On the other hand, trauma such as whiplash can lead to the whole upper body ‘freezing’ due to the shock, with the formation of multiple trigger points as a result, leading to stiffness and pain. Some cases we see arise from trauma, such as a small shunt, 10+ years ago that has never been treated or assessed properly!
So how do we address the pain? What’s the long-term solution?
First things first, we need to regain normal and optimal neuromuscular function by removing the tightness and trigger points seen within musculature. This can be achieved through the use of Bioneuro technology, helping activate switched-off nerves and regain muscle function, with the assistance of soft tissue release and massage techniques. Once we have achieved normal function, a combination of education, activity modification, and rehabilitative exercises are utilised to help minimise the risk of a reoccurrence. In some cases, where the primary risk factor for the pathology is un-modifiable, regular sessions are recommended to help prevent symptoms from relapsing and returning back to square one!
So the overall message here is if you are suffering from any aches or pains, it is best to get them addressed before they turn into something more sinister and debilitating. Yes, some aches and pains do ‘just go’, however, many will remain and cause you greater problems down the line, and you should never have to just ‘live with the pain’ or ‘get use to it’.