"I go to the chiropractor and my neck feels better for a few hours/days... but then it always comes back."
I've seen this numerous times, and in my experience it almost always means that there is a neurological reason for the neck tightness. Don't worry- this usually doesn't mean anything scary like a tumor or neurological disease. This type of problem is all too common and often arises from one part of the brain not communicating effectively with the other parts. In the case of chronic neck tightness it's usually the cerebellum or the vestibular system that is not communicating properly.
The three main sensory systems that tell you where your head is in space are the muscles of the neck, the eyes, and inner ear (vestibular system). These three systems are very much connected and work in perfect unison most of the time. However, when one of those three systems is not working quite properly you are forced to rely more heavily on the other two. In this case, I often see weakness in the ability of the eyes to track smoothly and/or the vestibular system that produces neck stiffness. Your brain figures "I'd rather have a tight neck than be dizzy", and by tightening the muscles of your neck you are better able to perceive where your head is in space. The down side is that neck tightness is very unpleasant.
In my office I do neurological testing to determine where these areas of weakness are so that I can better tailor my treatment plan. My testing includes things like different eye movements, head movements, balance exercises, coordination tests, and eye reflexes. Once I identify the area(s) of the brain that need stimulation treatments include things like eye exercises, chiropractic adjustments, and coordination exercises.
The thing that makes my approach special is:
1. Specificity. With the functional neurological exam, I am able to identify the areas of the brain that need stimulation the most. This differs from most chiropractic treatments, in that the treatment goal in most chiropractor's offices is to simply get the neck to move better, not stimulate the brain.
Most of the time chiropractors will find and adjust at least one subluxation on each side of the neck. This works great for most people, however I have seen that cases like this often respond better to a more brain-specific approach. This may mean adjusting only one side of the neck is merited, despite the presence of subluxations on both sides.
2. Strength of the stimuli used is always taken into consideration at my office. Neck adjustments are powerful sensory stimuli for the brain and must be used with caution in potentially neurologically compromised individuals. Honestly, sometimes people with this type of neck tightness benefit from doing neurological exercises before or in lieu of adjusting in the beginning.
3. Stimulation and nutrition are both crucial for proper brain function and are addressed in my office. The forces that age your body also age your brain, but they hit the brain much faster and harder and are often overlooked.
If you or somebody you know is interested in working with a functional medicine doctor please feel free to call our office at (919) 238-4094 to set up a free phone consultation and see if we are the right fit for you. Infinity Holistic Healthcare is located in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, part of the Raleigh-Durham "triangle" area.