knots in upper back and neck causing severe pain

by Lisa
(Pittsfield Ma)

I have suffered from migraines for years. All of my migraines start with a walnut sized knot in my upper back and a similar sized knot in my occipital region. These type headaches last anywhere from 5-7 days. Now mind you I have family and friends massage the heck out of these knots to try and bring about relief and that has helped at times but never for long.

This past 7 days I have really suffered to the point where I couldn't rest my neck in any direction. Is it possible that I made the pain worse by very intense massage and pressings by my friends. My neck feels very weak and strained. I am at my wits end.

I have never believed in chiropractic care but am so desperate that I have scheduled an apt with one this week. I am very scared. I am worrying that it will cause more damage or even a stroke when he manipulates my neck.

Please give me your insight on my symptoms of large knots and headaches and insight on my worries over going to a chiropractor. I don't know where else to turn. Lisa

Hello Lisa,
Cervical spine pain radiating down to the midback and upwards causing severe migraine headaches is a common complaint in the chiropractic clinic, so you need have no anxiety on that score. Your chiropractor will have seen hundreds of people with simular complaints. Yours sounds particularly nasty, though.

Ask him to check your jaw joints too.

Stroke after a cervical manipulation can happen, but it's such a rare phenomenon. I've probably given 200,000 neck adjustments in 34 years and not had a problem; but like lightning, it can happen. If you are a smoker, on the pill and are also experiencing dizziness, then you are more at risk.

You probably take a lot of medication, and that's far more risky.

A good option: go for an examination, telling the chiropractor you don't want treatment at this stage; after his or her report of findings, go home and weigh it all up.

If chiropractic was as dangerous as you've heard it is, we'd all be out of business by now. Instead, chiropractic malpractice premiums are amongst the lowest in the medical world. On the whole chiropractic is reasonably safe, and after pain treatment short lived.

I think you'll be pleasantly surprised, Lisa. Don't expect Rome to built in a day though. You'll need to go for a course of treatments, probably 6-10, then some rehab and an occasional but regular treatment. Don't buy into a fifty treatment program, but also don't expect your chiropractor to be a miracle worker. S/he will have to work very hard to help you.

Let me know how you get on.

Dr B

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Interesting challenges of the day

1. Mr S is a 76 year old man with neck pain of some 9 months duration. Luckily, most of the discomfort is upper cervical which is only rarely arthritic; his lower cervical spine is a degenerative mess that I have left alone. After seven treatments his pain and stiffness is 50 percent better, and he is happy in the circumstances. He can sleep through the night now and that makes a huge difference.

2. Mr P is 32 year old man with very severe lower back pain radiating to the big toe which is 30 percent numb. He had an episode three weeks ago, took anti-inflammatories and was soon better as is typical of the medial disc herniation. But before it healed, after a trivia it came roaring back, much worse. The characteristic crossed sign was evident; sitting in a chair, straightening the right leg provoked severe left back pain and tingling in the leg. He is doing well.

3. Severe lower back pain is scary; just ask Mrs P. Just watching her get out of the car I she was in trouble; she had a slipped disc at L4 making her lean towards the opposite side; luckily she had no pain in the leg. Despite family pressure that this was far too severe for a chiropractor, she persevered. Within five days she was standing upright, and after two weeks almost pain-free. 

Despite a hectic job, she wisely took my advice and stayed home for what I call exercising bed rest.

4. Mr S has had lower back, groin and back of thigh and calf pain for fourth months.

He has a pincer deformity in the hip causing the stabs in the groin, and a degenerative facet causing the sciatica. Both are responding well to chiropractic and he is well pleased; sixty-five percent better after three treatments.

5. Mr T is a wise man; he has taken a warning TIA seriously and has lost 15 pounds, and has at least as much again to lose. A change to a low starch diet and half hour daily stroll has made the difference; but the walking is making his foot and back miserable. The expensive orthotic is hopeless; luckily his hips and back are fine, but he needs a simple heel lift; he has a short leg.

6. I too have had serious lower back issues, luckily fixed by my own chiropractor; so I too have to do my exercises, take care when lifting supers full of honey, gardening and using the chainsaw. Regaining the function of your spine is just as important as the pain.

7. My own granddaughter, only 7 is hypermobile giving her pelvic, knee and ankle issues. X-rays show a mildly dysplastic hip. Years ago we would have called it growing pains. She too regularly needs chiropractic care and luckily responds well. Increased range of motion is more difficult than too stiff in my opinion. Our care is for kids too.

8. This 65-year old lady is a serious gardener; every day she is bending, lifting and digging for 2 to 3 hours a day. It regularly catches her in the sacroiliac joint, so she has a treatment once a month that sorts it out. She does her lower back exercises faithfully.

9. This 88-year old lady is an inspiration; every day she is busy in the community. With a nasty scoliosis she manages very well with a chiropractic adjustment every six weeks and exercises faithfully done. 

10. Mr X is a 71-year old retired man who wants to continue with maintenance care every six to eight weeks; he had suffered from two years of lower back pain when he first came a few months ago. He has no discomfort now after 8 chiropractic treatments, but is aware that danger lurks.

11. Mrs C has been having severe headaches, and taking a lot of analgesics. It is a non-complicated upper cervical facet syndrome, and she is doing well.

12. Mr D is a 38-year old year man with chronic shoulder pain after a rotator cuff tear playing cricket. It responded well to treatment, but he knows he must do his exercises every day; for two years he could not sleep on that shoulder.

13. Mr D, a 71-year old man, has a severe ache in the shoulder and midback since working above his head. Trapped nerve tests are negative but he has advanced degenerative joints of Luschka; after just two treatments he is 50 percent better. Can we reach 90?

And so the day goes; chiropractors should not be treating the elderly most medical sites state but that is so much bunkum.

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