Constant Neck and Shoulder Pain

Posted in Neck Pain Disorders on 07/17/2021 13:19 PM

Constant neck and shoulder pain is one of those problems that may not kill you but certainly makes your life more difficult.

  • Working

  • Sleeping 
  • Relaxing

With constant neck and shoulder pain, it feels like it is almost impossible to get comfortable. And though you persist, it would certainly be nice to not have constant neck and shoulder pain.

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If you are like most people, you have probably already tried all the common treatments:

Painkillers and anti-inflammatories

  • Massage
  • Physiotherapy
  • Chiropractic
  • Osteopathy
  • Acupuncture

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If it’s severe enough, you’ve probably also had a few x-rays, CTs, or even an MRI to find out what the cause of your constant neck and shoulder pain might be. Maybe the report says a little bit about “degeneration” or a “curve problem,” but no other signs of objective pathology.

So, you’re stuck! You don’t know what’s going on and you’ve already tried everything you can think of to help with your constant neck and shoulder pain. 

What else is there?

One important possibility may have everything to do with the top vertebra in your neck: the atlas or C1.

The Atlas and Constant Neck and Shoulder Pain

The atlas supports the weight of your head, protect your brainstem, and also provides 50% of your total head movement. 

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When it comes to constant neck and shoulder pain, there is a very important muscle that may be important for you: the levator scapula. 

The levator scapula is a muscle that attaches to the tips of the C1-C4 vertebrae along the side of your neck (aka transverse processes) and connects to the top corner of your shoulder blade. This muscle is involved with elevating the shoulder but also supports leaning your head sideways.

That is how the muscle works when the atlas is sitting properly at the base of your skull. What is also important is that your atlas does not have an intervertebral disc to support its position either above or below. 

Therefore, if you ever have experienced a head, neck, should, or spinal injury - even if you don’t have any bruising, bleeding or broken bones - the atlas can get knocked from its neutral alignment and get stuck in any one of 360o of possible misalignments.

(We find that the most common configuration is a forwards misalignment … but more on that later).

So what happens to the levator scapula muscle if the atlas is not sitting where it is supposed to? It will tighten! That is actually the body’s natural reflex to attempt to balance the head. The problem is that if the atlas is stuck, there is no simple stretch or exercise that simply unsticks it on its own. As a consequence, the levator scapula plus other muscles stay perpetually tight.

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Multiple that tightness over weeks, month,s or even years, and voila! you have a recipe for chronic shoulder tightness plus constant neck and shoulder pain.

It is believed that this is one of the reasons why constant neck and shoulder pain happen so commonly when people experience other symptoms as well:

  • Headaches or migraines
  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Low back pain or sciatica
  • TMJ (jaw) pain or neuralgia
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia

How is Atlas Treatment DIFFERENT for people with Constant Neck and Shoulder Pain

The cause of your constant neck and shoulder pain is related to a problem with the alignment of the atlas, you may be wondering why it is that you haven’t experienced much relief if you have already been to a massage therapist, physiotherapist, chiropractor, or osteopath, who has worked on your neck.

Well, in reality, many people who do experience constant neck and shoulder pain get great results with these treatments! Alas, there are still people who don’t. 

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If you are in this category, it may well be that all your treatments have been in the right area BUT that you need to do things just a little bit different to get the results you are looking for.

At Atlas Health Australia in North Lakes (north Brisbane), our focus is on the alignment and function of the upper neck: the atlas (C1) and the axis (C2). We are one of only a few certified upper cervical-specific practitioners in all of Australia and the only practice with advanced certification in the Blair method.

The Blair method recognises that every human being is constructed differently on the outside and also on the inside. Therefore, if we want to identify what is actually going on and causing spinal problems such as constant neck and shoulder pain, we need to take these individual differences into account.

What we do first are a series of prep use tests to help us identify where and why you physical hold stress in your body (hint: if you experience constant neck and shoulder pain, it would be at that bump at the base of your neck and between your shoulder blades), and find also how your body is functioning neurologically. If we identify that there is a problem involving the atlas, we have specialised diagnostic imaging on site that allows us to identify the exact direction and degree of any misalignment in that area.

Here is what we often find (and do) different than many other practitioners when it comes to constant neck and shoulder pain. It is our experience that the atlas most frequently misaligns FORWARDS, and yet many common methods of treating constant neck and shoulder pain involve working on the BACK of the muscles. In other words, the area might be correct, but the direction may not be!

When we have this information, we are able to make an individualised care recommendation to help restore the normal alignment and motion of the atlas vertebra. When we do that, we expect to find that the muscles of the neck and shoulder can finally (!) let go, and then over a period of time you are able to finally (!) experience the relief that you are looking for with your constant neck and shoulder pain.

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Atlas Treatment in Brisbane

If you have already tried everything else, we hope that you might realise that there is another way that you may be able to find a solution for your constant neck and shoulder pain.

At Atlas Health, we work with people experiencing a variety of chronic neck and health conditions to find long term solutions so that you can enjoy the things in life that are most to you. 

Our practice is happy to offer a 15-minute complementary over the phone consultation with our principal Blair chiropractor, Dr. Jeffrey Hannah, who would be happy to answer your questions so that you can decide if treatment may be right for you.

You can contact us direct at 07 3188 939 to arrange a no-obligation consultation.

Alternatively, you can click the Contact Us link on this page, and we will return your email.

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We hope that we may be of assistance to you.

Atlas Health Australia - A different approach for helping people with constant neck and shoulder pain.

References

Aprill C, Axinn MJ, Bogduk N. Occipital headaches stemming from the lateral atlanto-axial (C1-C2) joint. Cephalgia. 2002;22(1):15-22. 

Braaf MM, Rosner S. Trauma of cervical spine as cause of chronic headache. J Trauma Acute Care Surg. May 1975;15(5):441-446).

Bragatto MM, Bevilaqua-Grossi D, Benatto MT, et al. Is the presence of neck pain associated with more severe clinical presentation in patients with migraine? A cross-sectional study. Cephalalgia. 2019 May 27:333102419854061. doi: 10.1177/0333102419854061. [Epub ahead of print]. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/31132869 

Millstine D, Chen CY, Bauer B. Complementary and integrative medicine in the management of headache. BMJ. 2017 May 16;357:j1805. doi: 10.1136/bmj.j1805. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28512119 

Whittingham W, Ellis WB, Molyneux TP. The effect of manipulation (toggle recoil technique) for headaches with upper cervical joint dysfunction: a pilot study. J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 1994;17(6):369-75.

Wong JJ, Shearer HM, Mior S, et al. Are manual therapies, passive physical modalities, or acupuncture effective for the management of patients with whiplash-associated disorders or neck pain and associated disorders? An update of the Bone and Joint Decade Task Force on Neck Pain and Its Associated Disorders by the OPTIMa collaboration. Spine J. 2016 Dec;16(12):1598-1630. doi: 10.1016/j.spinee.2015.08.024. Epub 2015 Dec 17. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26707074

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