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  • Writer's pictureDr. Chung

Neck Alignment and Low Back Pain: Why Your Surgeon is Starting to Care

The Pain is in my back, why are you looking at my neck??? In that post, I shared a reference to research from the Journal of Neurosurgery that talked about the importance of neck alignment in relation to the lumbar spine and pelvis. In other words, neurosurgeons were starting to find out that how they operated on the neck could have implications to the back.

Is the Back Doctor You Need Really a Neck Doctor? Historically, upper cervical chiropractors have been dismissed insurance companies and some traditional chiropractors when we say that conditions like back pain and sciatica can be addressed through the neck. It can seem silly and unlikely for a couple of reasons:

  1. Most Atlas Correction procedures are very low-force and it's hard to imagine that intervention having much of an effect on people with severe spine pain

  2. We have been brought up to think in a very linear manner, where if it hurts in the back then we must treat the back. When it comes to patients who are in pain, we have to remember that:

  3. Pain is a complex neurophysiological phenomenon that frequently goes outside the linear model of thinking.

  4. The body is often separated into various parts for educational understanding, but it operates as a complex whole. If you perform an intervention on one part of the body, you can expect changes to occur upstream and downstream. This is especially true for the spine. A lot of people will go to a therapist or doctor with a pain in a certain region, and the expectation is that the professional will identify their area of pain and treat it. The thing to remember is that a good doctor and a good therapist is not there to simply do what the patient expects them to do.

The job of a good professional is to identify the cause of the problem, and develop an effective solution to the problem regardless of what the patient expectation is. Although I work primarily on the head and neck, almost 60% of the people coming into my office have a primary complaint of low back pain. Most of these patients with low back pain have had shots, massage, patches, and chiropractic adjustments to the low back region before coming to see me. It wasn't until they had their neck corrected that they started to get some prolonged relief.

Neurosurgeons Starting to Notice New Research in the Journal of Neurosurgery. Spine is helping to confirm this idea that the neck can afffect the back. The authors studied 318 patients with deformity in their thoracic and lumbar spine (their back). They separated the groups into surgical and non-surgical groups. They authors took note of the alignment of the neck. They correlated their findings with surveys that measured their health and quality of life. The authors found that the amount of anterior head translation (anterior head syndrome) and the amount of curve in their neck correlated to the amount of disability that the patients had. They also found that if the surgery lead to a small amount of anterior head syndrome, then the patients quality of life tended to improve, even after 2 years. Of course this isn't a clinical trial, but it is interesting that surgeons are seeing a correlation between neck positioning and a patient's quality of life.

Neck Correction WIHTOUT Surgery Spine surgery is necessary in severe cases of spinal damage and pain. No matter how "simple" a spine surgery might be, it is almost always a major surgery. That means a couple of things:

  1. If you are considering spine surgery, make sure you have the best of the best. Failed spine surgery is now a recognized condition that can lead people to a worsening of their pain.

  2. If you have spinal pain, surgery should only be a consideration if you cannot function, loss of muscle strength, risk of organic problems (urinary/elimination problems).

  3. You should exhaust all conservative options before considering spine surgery In our office, we focus on correcting the head and neck with some of the most gentle and precise procedures available in chiropractic. If back pain and leg pain have become a troublesome chronic problem, and it feels like you've exhausted all of your conservative options, then Atlas Correction may be a good fit for you. Ask Dr. Chung more about your whiplash case. We have Skype, telephone and in-person consultation options available.

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