by: Dr. Eben Davis
I have been practicing chiropractic for over 20 years in San Francisco. During this time I have mostly specialized in treating conditions such as neck pain, headaches and carpal tunnel symptoms. I say carpal tunnel symptoms vs. carpal tunnel syndrome because most of the time, when a patient presents with hand pain, numbness, tingling or weakness, the problem originates in the neck, not the hands. My 20 years experience as a chiropractor has also taught me that most headaches, even migraine headaches, are the result of pinched nerves in the neck. So, when you consider that 70% of all Americans will have serious neck pain at some point in their lives, this has kept me busy.
Research also supports the efficacy of chiropractic adjustments for neck pain.
The largest scale study on neck pain was based on research from 1980 to 2006 on the use, effectiveness and safety of noninvasive treatment approaches for neck pain and associated disorders. Their review of over 350 articles supported manual therapy, such as manipulation and mobilization and supervised exercise to achieve the most favorable outcomes.
Chiropractic adjustments and supervised low tech therapies, such as stretches, strengthening and range of motion exercises, are what most chiropractors do for neck pain. It’s certainly what I do at my clinic. If there are carpal tunnel symptoms, I will also perform chiropractic adjustments to the shoulders, elbows, wrists and fingers on both sides. I do both sides because when one side is bad, the other side has to compensate, which means it is working more than it should. Of course, we are adjusting the cervical spine because misalignments in the neck can cause pressure on the nerves that innervate the arm and hand.
This thought process was not so mainstream 15-20 years ago when I started doing it. Now it is.
For headaches, we first want to rule out anything serious. This is usually accomplished with the case history and the onset of the symptoms. If a patient has a sudden, severe onset of severe headaches, it could be a red flag that something serious is happening and we would refer them for medical attention. This is rare, but does happen.
Mostly, headaches are chronic and ongoing. Some patients have been suffering with headaches for years, taking medications that do nothing but make life miserable. I know because I was one of them. I discovered chiropractic as a migraine headache sufferer. I had brain scans, MRI, hearing tests, cortisone injections, pain pills, muscle relaxers, sleeping pills, you name it. A chiropractor cured me in 8 weeks.
So I have a special place in my heart, and in my knowledge bank, for treating headaches, and the first place I look is the neck. Even though neck pain, most carpal tunnel symptoms and most headaches originate in the neck, we don’t want to only look at the neck. There are 24 bones in the spine, 7 cervical, 12 thoracic and 5 lumbar, plus the sacrum and coccyx. All of them are interconnected and can affect the others. So we must check the entire spine every time.
I typically adjust the full spine and extremities on most people. It’s a lot of work, but the results speak for themselves. I do a lot of stretching and range of motion therapies also, in addition to what my assistants do before I even see a patient. Is all this necessary? It is if you want to leave no stone unturned. It’s an old school style of practice. Lots of hands-on, stretching and realigning. It all starts in the neck.