Do you know anyone who struggles with headaches, migraines and/or neck pain? The head and neck are the most vulnerable parts of the body, especially the spine inside your neck. Not only does the neck support the head (which weighs about 10-15 pounds), but it also allows for forward, backward, lateral and rotational movement of your head. In addition, it must transmit the flow of nerve impulses through your spinal cord to your head, face, hands and the rest of your body. In addition to discomfort and embarrassment, chronic neck pain and headaches are a sign that something is not working properly.

Many things in everyday life can cause neck pain and headaches, such as watching television, using your computer, reading a book or falling asleep in a chair or on an airplane. The resulting temporary pain may resolve on its own, especially when the offending activity is stopped. However, this does not mean that the problem has gone away.

Poor posture is a life scenario for most people. If your head weighs 10 pounds (which is the typical load) and is aligned directly over your shoulder, the effective load on your spinal tissue is only 10 pounds. However, if your head has moved forward, the load is increased tenfold with each additional inch of forward posture. So if you carry your head 2 inches forward from where it should be, your head loads 30 pounds on the supporting tissues. If you wear it 3 inches forward of where it should be, then 40 pounds of pressure is placed on your neck and shoulders. As a result, your health and performance can decrease while the neck pain, headaches and fatigue that often accompany living with these problems increase!

In fact, when your head is carried forward for many years, there is a greater incidence of developing arthritis in the spine. Poor posture also affects soft tissue and can alter blood flow to the spinal cord itself. Forward posture has also been associated with disc damage. Prolonged poor posture deprives muscles of oxygen and causes tissue damage. Tendons, ligaments and discs undergo changes that can become permanent. This is probably why many people with poor posture cannot correct it on their own!

Poor daily posture could cost you thousands of dollars! A recent study found that those who suffer from chronic back pain for a year may experience a reduction in brain gray matter equivalent to the average person going through 10 to 20 years of normal aging. Not surprisingly, research has found that posture affects and moderates all physiological functions, from breathing to hormone production. Spinal pain, headaches, mood, blood pressure, pulse rate and lung capacity are among the functions most easily influenced by posture.

The most common cause of neck pain is functional distortions of the spine resulting from vertebral subluxations. These subluxations are seen in cases of inverted cervical curvature, whiplash and joint instability. The body reacts by tightening the neck muscles, “splinting” the joint to protect it from further insult. Chiropractic care can help.

Most of the pain-sensitive nerves in the neck are located in the facet joint pairs at the back of each vertebra. These smooth, interlocking surfaces allow you to rotate your head and bend it up and down. If these joints become locked or fixed, neck pain can result. Chiropractic care can help restore proper joint movement.

A more difficult problem to correct is the degenerative changes that result from neglect. Years of uncorrected spine problems can cause bone spurs, thinning discs and other forms of spinal decay. These types of problems respond more slowly and some type of ongoing supportive chiropractic care may be needed.

Our response to stress is another common cause of neck pain. Delays. Rush hour traffic. Over-committing ourselves. Work pressures. Family duties. Have you ever met someone who was a “pain in the neck?” Each of us is sensitive to our body’s unconscious response to people and circumstances. These perceptions can manifest themselves in episodes of neck pain.

If the weakest link in our body is our neck, stress manifests itself there. While chiropractic care can’t reduce the stress in your busy life, it can help improve your ability to manage and tolerate it. More importantly, it can do so without the dangers and complications of drugs or surgery!