Neck Pain and the Brain

Posted in Neck Pain Disorders on Dec 14, 2022

Pain in the Neck

Some research suggests that neck pain can cause changes in the way different parts of the brain work together. Spinal manipulation (which is when a doctor moves your spine around) might be a good way to help people with neck pain get back to normal.

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More research is needed to explore all the potential benefits of spinal manipulation therapy, as well as how well it works in the long term for people who have neck pain often or keep getting it back. [1]

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Neck Joints Brain Effect

A new study suggests that patients with osteoarthritis (joint damage from restricted movement) in the neck- may present changes in brain function. These changes include white matter damage, gray matter volume loss, and functional adaptive changes in the sensorimotor cortex.

Researchers believe that further understanding these effects could lead to better treatment methods for those suffering from degenerative neurological diseases. [2]

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Dystonia is a group of disorders that causes your muscles to contract without you meaning to. This can result in either slow movements or weird postures. For some people with dystonia, this can be painful. You might also experience shaking or other neurological symptoms.

Several different types of dystonia exist, each affecting just one muscle, a group of muscles, or all the muscles throughout your body. While some types have a genetic component, we don't know the cause for most cases.

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The many forms of dystonia result in a variety of symptoms that differ depending on the affected body part(s). Some common examples are listed below:

- torticollis (involuntary neck spasms)

- idiopathic (unknown cause) scoliosis

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- uncontrollable blinking

- hand cramping after writing or playing music

- tremor

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- sporadic or persistent foot cramps

- restless leg muscle twitches

- speech impediments

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At first, the symptoms may be easily ignored, but they can become more severe over time. Sometimes dystonia affects only one specific activity. For example, a musician may have dystonia when using a hand to play an instrument, but not when using the same hand to write.

Cervical dystonia, also called torticollis, is a common type of dystonia. This condition causes the muscles in the neck to contract and spasm, resulting in the head tilting, turning to one side, or being pulled forward or backward.

The shoulder might be pulled up sometimes. Torticollis can happen to anyone at any age. It often starts slowly and gets worse over several months or years. And only 10 percent of people with torticollis get better without treatment. [3]

Functional Chiropractic

Many people do not know this, but some dystonias can improve without drugs or surgery. This can be done with specific chiropractic care. This rare type of chiropractic care makes spasmodic muscle contractions and overall function better. [4]

E-motional Balance

A study using fMRI (functional MRI) mapped out the brain pathways for emotional reactions caused by disturbing images. The results showed that when people saw emotionally upsetting visuals, it caused stronger responses in the cerebellum and the areas of the brain connected to it.

Additionally, the strength of these responses was associated with enhanced memory performance for the emotional stimuli. This means that if people have stronger reactions to emotional stimuli, they will remember it better.

The functional pathways underlying this phenomenon could help to develop therapeutic strategies for addressing conditions and reprogramming the physical and emotional reactions difficult to manage with any other treatment. [5]

Alignment, Balance, and Coordination

The cerebellum is best understood for balance and motor control, but recent studies suggest it might also play a role in certain cognitive functions such as attention, language skills, emotional responses, and more.

Cerebellar damage can cause difficulties with precise movements, balance, body position, learning new motor skills and seemingly unrelated health issues.

The cerebellum appears to be a small, separate structure attached to the bottom of the brain. Its surface is covered with thin, parallel grooves compared to the broad, irregular convolutions of the cerebral cortex.

The continuous thin layer of tissue that is the cerebellar cortex is tightly folded in an accordion style. Concentrating most nerves in the brain into a very small area. This complex neural organization is capable of problem-solving hundreds of times faster and more complex than the rest of the brain.

The cerebellum communicates with the body through the brain stem and spinal cord. Sensors especially in and around joints, for things like movement and position send signals to the cerebellum so it can figure out what muscles need to do next.

This is called proprioception which means the sense of movement and position. The strongest proprioceptive sensors are found in the spinal joints, especially at the top of the spine. [6]

Unleashing the Super Brain

For thousands of years, people who do martial arts have practiced difficult movements so they can do them quickly and without thinking. But this could take many years and a lot of practice to get perfect. Almost all professional athletes go through the same process.

And musicians can spend years practicing before their talent becomes effortless.

We now understand that these processes are the functions of the cerebellum, and we can access that supercomputer of the brain, more easily during strong emotional states.

Plus, there are other shortcuts to improve someone's balance, coordination, endurance, flexibility, strength, and emotional state by tapping into the cerebellum program directly.

Some advanced postgraduate chiropractic certification programs focus on cerebellar reprogramming. This means using a modified non-invasive test, similar to a roadside sobriety test, to measure subclinical cerebellar dysfunction (alignment, balance, and coordination). 

Then the doctor finds the restricted spinal joint and then gently moves it with fingertip pressure to help it move right again. They never twist or crack your neck.

With measurable results that you can feel quickly, like being able to balance better, coordinate your movements better, have more endurance, be more flexible, stronger, and in a better emotional and mental state.

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