Neck pain and headaches often co-occur and are two of the most common reasons patients seek chiropractic care. Thus, it’s important for a doctor of chiropractic to conduct a careful history and examination to determine if the patient’s headaches and neck pain are indeed related or if the issues need to be addressed independently. Here’s the process most patients with a combination of neck pain and headaches can expect when consulting with a chiropractor.
Doctors of chiropractic start out with a past history that includes the following: 1) prior injuries or accidents; 2) family history, social history (including education level and occupation, sleep habits, tobacco/alcohol use, and more) 3) allergy history; 4) vaccination history; 5) current medication use to identify potential side effects; 6) review of your systems (cardiovascular, respiratory, ears/nose/throat, genito-urinary, and more).
The present history then looks at each complaint individually to determine onset, palliative, and provoking positions/activities/situations, quality of symptoms, radiation and location of complaints, severity of complaints (pain—right now, on average, at best and at worst), and timing (better in the morning or night, work-relatedness, hormonal shifts, or patterns).
The examination may include vital signs (blood pressure, pulse, respirations, height, weight, temperature, etc.); observation of posture, gait, movement, affect, facial grimace; palpation of muscles, trigger points, joint noise (crepitation), warmth; orthopedic tests that provoke an increase and/or decrease in pain/symptoms; neurological tests; and consideration for special tests like x-ray, blood tests, or specialty evaluation.
This information results in a working diagnosis from which a doctor of chiropractic can create a treatment plan for the patient. Commonly used approaches you can expect from your chiropractor may include manual therapies such as spinal manipulation (thrust and non-thrust types); mobilization (stretch-type); “drop table” methods; manual traction, trigger point, and other “soft-tissue” techniques; and modalities such as vibration, ice/heat, electric stim, ultrasound, and more. Additional self-care or at-home strategies may include specific exercise training, posture retraining, nutritional recommendations, and activity modifications.
Some patients may experience initial soreness following their first treatment but will typically feel improvements in pain and disability following a handful of visits, at which time their doctor of chiropractic may adjust the treatment plan or release the patient from care.