HEAD, NECK, TMJ (JAW) AND SHOULDER PAIN:
HOW ARE THEY ALL RELATED?
The prestigious British Medical Journal published an article in 2013, that was picked up by many media reports, stated that “sitting in now considered more dangerous than smoking for your health”.
By understanding the neurology and the biomechanics of the human body, sitting has more far reaching effects than ever thought possible. As an infant, our first milestone is to raise the head to be able to bring the eyes level to the horizon, which develops the C-curve in our necks. From there, we develop the low back curve to be able to bear weight on the spine with sitting, standing and walking. Our brains spend about 90% of its effort in maintaining an upright posture and resist the forces of gravity. This is the information taken in through the eyes and other senses, which of course, have a direct nerve connection with your head and neck. The muscles of the jaw are also intricately connected to the muscles of the head, neck and face.
So what does that have to do with my head, neck, jaw or shoulder pain?
When the neck is put into a flexed posture (looking down), the spinal vertebrae become loaded. For every inch of forward head posture, your head weighs an extra 10 pounds!
With more forward head posture, your neck and back muscles have to work much harder to lift up the head to keep the eyes facing forward. This puts a lot of stress into many areas of the spine. The upper neck muscles (the suboccipital muscles) can start to impinge nerves that go to the head, causing headaches and migraines. The jaw muscles have to work harder to kep the mouth closed, putting stress on the TMJ joint. There are also nerves that go to the shoulders that can become impinged, potentially causing frozen shoulder syndrome (see below). Rotator cuff issues develop because of the rotating in of the shoulders that comes with having the head forward. And finally, even the low back can be affected because of the extra pressure on the discs when they are placed in a flexed position. That is why, even though you may just have low back pain, Dr. Trim will still check your neck for misalignment.
What will happen on your visit with the chiropractor?
The first step will be to conduct a thorough history of your complaint. Many head, neck, jaw and shoulder problems are also related to postural problems, old traumas that need to be assessed, as well as figuring out what lifestyle and workplace factors aggravate the problem.
Next, a thorough examination is conducted by Dr. Trim and/or her associates, when required. Not only is the shoulder and neck examined, but a full postural, neurological and orthopedic examination is conducted so no issues go undetected. X-rays may also be taken, if deemed necessary, or the patient can bring in any test results that have already been done with their family physician.
No treatment is performed until patients have been through the full examination process, and have had their unique circumstance and explanation of their injury explained to them. Often the problem is what has been described above, but each patient brings different circumstances, and each patient often requires a bit of a different treatment. Any risk factors are explained and consent must be given before treatment is commenced.
The treatment is often directed at performing very specific chiropractic adjustments to the skull and upper neck to release the nerve pressure. Often, this is the only adjustment needed to make an immediate change to the pain and range of motion of a locked neck joint or even a frozen shoulder. After that, more specific adjustments are used to restore ranges of motion and allow the muscles to finally relax. Other therapy may needed to release the remainder of the stiffness within the shoulder joint, neck and upper back to fully resolve the condition, and/or exercises and stretches are recommended to help to continue the healing. Total acute treatment time is usually about six weeks or less to make the change and cause a great improvement in the head, neck or shoulder pain!! Then it becomes really important to follow through with exercises, stretches and supportive chiropractic care to maintain and continue to full resolution of the issue.
What is Frozen Shoulder Syndrome?
Frozen Shoulder Syndrome, or Adhesive Capsulitis (the medical term), is a very painful condition that limits your ability to use the affected arm. The pain often causes sleep disruption and severely affects your activities of daily living because of the pain and limitation of movement of the arm. The type of care that you choose to treat your frozen shoulder will have a big impact on your outcome. Frozen shoulders will go through the three stages of progression: freezing, frozen and thawing stages over a period of 6 months to 3 years before it will fully resolve, but in some cases, it never fully resolves and people are left in chronic pain and 20% will suffer a frozen shoulder on the other side once the first side resolves.
People suffering from Diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, and other medical conditions seem to be at a higher risk of developing a frozen shoulder but so far the reasons for that are unknown.
What Causes Frozen Shoulder Syndrome?
There has not been any clear or exact cause of Frozen Shoulder Syndrome. Frozen shoulder can develop when you stop using the shoulder joint because of pain, injury or surgical procedures of the shoulder. There is a higher incidence in people who suffer from diabetes, heart disease, thyroid conditions, Parkinson’s and other conditions. Really, any shoulder problem that causes pain and loss of range of motion is at risk of further developing into a frozen shoulder.
The OTZ doctors have discovered another plausible cause of the Frozen Shoulder Syndrome. The theory is that a misalignment occurs between the skull and the first cervical (neck) vertebrae that causes a pinching or tractioning of the nerve that goes to the muscle that helps to raise the shoulder. This results in the patient gradually not being able to lift the shoulder and then the pain and stiffness set in to cause the Frozen Shoulder Syndrome.
How is Frozen Shoulder Syndrome treated?
Standard medical treatment is to provide a combination of pain-killers, anti-inflammatories and some kind of therapy. Physical therapy, however, is often so painful or the patients that they cannot tolerate it and have to abandon it after several months, and often with very little progress made. Other orthopedic interventions will cortisone or air injection into the shoulder which have reported some limited successes. In stubborn cases, “medical manipulation” under anesthetic is performed, where doctors will tear the adhesions while you are asleep under unaesthetic, but again, with limited success rates.
The doctors of OTZ Method of treatment for frozen shoulder syndrome have found the unique chiropractic adjustment that releases the restriction of the skull on the neck, thereby releasing the impingement and tractioning of the nerve creating the weakness to the shoulder muscles. Once this is released, there is often a spontaneous increase in the range of motion of the shoulder and then proper rehabilitation can start to take place ! Since 2007, OTZ doctors around the world have performed and documented hundreds of cured frozen shoulders. When properly performed, the OTZ Method is a highly successful strategy that was the cause of the Frozen Shoulder Syndrome.
Dr. Trim has been trained personally by the OTZ team over the last few years and has successfully mastered the OTZ method of analysis and treatment for Frozen Shoulder. In fact, Dr. Trim hosted the first OTZ seminar in Canada to be able to train a number of select doctors, and then there have been hundreds of hours in practice time to perfect the technique. Hard work pays off, and Dr. Trim has had several cases of frozen shoulder syndrome resolve quickly using this method of treatment, without the months and months of painful therapy that would usually be associated with Frozen Shoulder.