Can Chiropractic Help Upper Back Pain?
Can upper cervical chiropractic help upper back pain?
“I’ve tried everything for my upper back pain, but nothing’s worked.”
Let me be clear from the start: upper back pain is common, but not normal.
When it comes to the
- tight muscles in the neck and the shoulders,
- the sharp upper back pain between the shoulder blades,
- the stabbing pain when you turn your head,
These are all common occurrences. But they are not normal.
Often times, people attribute upper back pain to a muscle problem. Well, that is partially true. However, have you ever considered, Why are the muscles tight in the first place?
The answer may not be a muscle problem or even a posture problem, but instead may actually indicate a nerve or brainstem problem that is affecting your upper back and may be contributing towards your upper back pain.
Or maybe you have tried a variety of treatments for your upper back pain only to find that each one only lasts for a couple of days (at most).
If so, I’d like to share with you a different approach - one that looks at the underlying reasons that so many people develop upper back pain. Then by addressing the problem at the source, are able to experience improvements not only with their upper back pain, but with their overall health and wellbeing too.
“Why are my muscles always so tight?”
Muscles do not do anything unless they are told to do so by the nerves that control them. So, when we are considering upper back pain that is often related to “tight muscles,” we need to consider what controls those muscles in the first place.
There are essentially four layers of muscles in your upper back (from inside-out):
- Deep Muscles, aka your core stabilisers. These are the tiny postural muscles that control joint-position sense an provide overall stability and information to your brain about where your body is in open space (aka proprioception).
- Primary Movers. In your upper back, these muscles are represented by a group called the erector spinae, which are series or muscles that work to keep your body in an upright position.
- Secondary Stabilisers. These muscles are not necessarily the prime movers, but certainly play an active role in assisting with movement. However, it is not uncommon in many people for these muscles to be stronger than the primary movers, which can actually lead to a variety of muscle imbalance problems including upper back pain. These muscles are represented by the spleneii muscles that attach your upper back to your skull; the scalene muscles that attach your neck to the front of your chest and collarbone, and the levator scapula and rhomboids, which attach your shoulder to your neck and upper back.
Of note, all these muscles are controlled by nerves from your cervical spine (C2-C8).
4. Superficial Muscles, i.e., your trapezius and your sternocleidomastoid (SCM). These are gross movement muscles that affect your posture and may be associated with clinical syndromes such as torticollis.
Of note again, these muscles are controlled by the 11th Cranial Nerve from rootlets from the C1-C4 part of your spinal cord, and branches from the C2-C4 nerves in your neck.
What I hope I have illustrated here for you is that the nerves from your neck are what actually control the muscles in your upper back. Therefore, if there is actually a problem with your neck it can manifest as upper back pain
“Do you Take Care of your Neck?”
Most likely you see a dentist, and you know how to take care of your teeth: brushing and flossing.
However, if you experience upper back pain, whom do you see to take care of your neck? And do you know how you need to take care of it yourself?
You probably have a sense what not to do: using a phone or computer too much, keeping your posture upright, looking straight ahead, not slouching, etc. However, have you ever wondered why it is that whenever you fix your posture that it immediately springs back to the same bad posture as soon as you relax again?
It’s because posture is seldom a posture problem. It is a muscle and nerve problem! It also means that whatever the underlying condition is, it is still there.
One of the additional hallmarks is if you ever ask someone to rub your neck or your shoulders to help with your upper back pain. Odds are that it feels delightful when you are having it done. However, as soon as the person stops, the same muscle tightness and upper back pain creeps immediately in again.
It is because the underlying issue is most likely there, and the muscles are simply compensating for what is going on.
So let’s consider the types of things that could be creating these underlying issues.
At the forefront is a misalignment of one of the bones in your neck, known as the cervical spine. The C1 (atlas) and C2 (axis) are especially susceptible to injury due to their flexibility. They also have the most profound impact on the spine and nervous system, so we will focus here.
Now, we aren’t talking about the type of injury or misalignment that has caused a fracture or a dislocation or a ruptured ligament. But we are talking about something that has affected the normal centre of gravity and axis of motion for one of the bones in your neck by a couple of millimetres.
Even if you think that a couple of millimetres is small, let me ask you if you have ever had a splinter in your finger? How big is a splinter? Maybe about the same size?
So if something that small can produce that much pain when provoked, is it possible that the same type of small but significant problem affecting your spine could be responsible for your upper back pain or other nerve issues?
You see, your brain isn’t stupid! And if it is not able to fix this type of injury on its own, it will cause the muscles in your neck and upper neck to guard, or pull away from the source of pain. In effect, this will cause your posture to change.
Remember that muscle only does what the NERVE tells it to do.
Also keep in mind that all muscles can only compensate for so long until they get achy, painful, and then something strains or gives out.
Do you see the connection now? How a problem affecting the nerves in your neck may cause your body to compensate, shifting the point of stress into your upper back, but then over a long period of time in turn creates upper back pain.
It is the reason why it is so common for people to experience sudden upper back pain where you can’t move your neck.
It is because the muscles have been stressed for so long that one morning, you were doing something so innocent like getting out of bed, washing your hair, or reversing from the driveway when your neck suddenly grabbed, and then all of your muscles started seizing and causing your strong upper back pain whenever you turned your head.
The upper cervical approach to helping people with upper back pain
Whether you have only recently experienced an episode of upper back pain or if upper back pain has been a constant source of irritation for months or years, we have a different approach that may be able to assist you.
It is called Blair upper cervical care.
Blair upper cervical care is a special division of chiropractic that does not use twisting, cracking or spinal manipulation to correct the alignment and motion for the bones in the neck with particular emphasis on the top two: the atlas (C1) and axis (C2).
The purpose of care, by correcting the alignment of the vertebrae in your neck, is to restore the normal mechanics as much as possible, which allows your body to work at a higher function.
When this happens, we believe that the source of irritation that may be affecting the spinal nerves or cord is reduces, which allows for your own body to make changes in your muscle tone, balancing the system. When this happens, it is how we believe so many people experience relief from upper back pain.
In this way, upper cervical care is not a treatment for the symptoms of upper back pain. It is an approach where we are looking to address an underlying cause of spinal dysfunction, and then allowing the body to heal itself naturally.
The process begins with an examination of your neck first to identify any issues there. At our North Lakes chiropractor practice, this involves the use of a detailed physical exam with posture analysis, neurological assessments including paraspinal computerised thermography, and precise 3D spinal imaging (when indicated) that reveals the exact direction and degree of misalignment in your neck.
From there, we present a plan of care based on your findings and your healthcare goals.
Can we help you?
Our practice is the premier centre for Blair upper cervical healthcare in southeast Queensland. We are actively working to build a network of Blair upper cervical chiropractic doctors throughout Australia so that this important form of healthcare is available in every community throughout the nation.
At present, we serve the greater Brisbane communities of south and north Brisbane, Albany Creek, Bulimba, Cashmere, Chandler, Hawthorne, Indooroopilly, New Farm, North Lakes, Narangba, Dakabin, Mango Hill, Burpengary and North Harbour, Kalinga, Newstead, Scarborough, Shorncliffe, Spring Hill, Toowong, Warner, West End also from the Gold Coast Sunshine Coast.
Because so many of our clients do travel 60 minutes, our practice is located just off the Bruce Highway in North Lakes and easily accessible.
So, can we help you?
One of the unique things that our practice offers is a 15-minute over the phone consultation with one of our resident doctors of chiropractic where we can learn a bit of information, answer any specific questions you have about your case, and offer you an impression if we believe that we can help you.
The call is no obligation, and so if you would like more information so that you can decide is upper cervical care may be right for you, we would like to extend this invitation for you to email us through the Contact Us link on this page, or alternatively contact us at our main office at 07 3188 9329.
Upper back pain is one of those things that so many people learn to live with, but may well be associated with many other things also that could be affecting your overall health and wellbeing. If there is a natural solution that may be able to help you too, it would be our privilege to assist you.
Atlas Health Australia - “A passion and purpose for helping people restore the quality of their lives.”
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