Last month, we covered the first two of four primary goals when it comes to the chiropractic management of neck pain (#1 - Pain Management and #2 - Structural realignment). This month, we will conclude this discussion with #3 - Functional Restoration and #4 - Prevention.
3) FUNCTIONAL RESTORATION: Restoring function basically allows the patient to return to their pre-injury activities of daily living, which is the ultimate goal when managing all conditions! In order for this to happen, it is necessary to have the first two goals accomplished, and the primary “tool” that we use to accomplish this goal is exercise training. There are several options to determine which exercise is most needed. A physical performance test can be done, which consists of a series of exercise-like maneuvers that we measure with an instrument that measures degrees (for range of motion), count repetitions (when testing for strength), or count time—usually in seconds (when testing for endurance, balance, and aerobic capacity). We then can compare you to the “norms” that have been published to see if you need help in a particular area. This also establishes a “baseline” or starting point to compare a month later after you’ve performed the proper exercises designed to improve that “failed test.” The three primary goals of exercises include stretching, strengthening, and restoring coordination.
STRETCH: A very effective exercise is performed by bending the head to the right, reaching over with the right hand, and gently pulling on the head until a good stretch is felt on the left side of the neck. Reaching down with the opposite (left) arm (as if there’s a dollar bill on the ground and you just can’t quite reach it) enhances the stretch. While stretching, tuck in your chin, drop your head forwards and backwards, and turn your head a little from side to side to feel for different tight muscle fibers. Continue this stretch for 10-20 seconds or long enough to feel that you’ve accomplished a good stretch. Then, repeat this on the opposite side. This can be done sitting or standing, and most importantly, do this multiple times a day, especially when you feel tight—like at work, for example. There are other stretches but this actually combines four different exercises into one, so it’s often enough!
STRENGTHENING: Place your hand against the side of your head and push your head into your hand using about 10-20% maximum effort (not much pressure!). First, allow your head “to win” by moving your head further until a tight stretch is felt. Second, let your hand “win” by moving the head to the opposite direction while maintaining pressure against your hand. Allow the head to bend ALL THE WAY to the end-range and repeat three times in each direction.
COORDINATION: Motor control, balance, and coordination are further enhanced by balancing on one foot with eyes open AND closed. Stand near a wall to avoid falling!
4. PREVENTION: Keep exercising and eat right! Consider joining a health club, working out with a friend, riding a bike, walking, and/or swimming. You choose!