“Yes, yes, yes,” moaned Kristy out loud, “That spot had been there for years… That feels so much better. That was amazing!” She paused for a moment to catch her breath, “Do I have to get up? Can I lay here a while?”
“No, you can lay there for a bit. Perhaps I should have bought you dinner before the treatment.” I joked.
About an hour before Kristy walked into my office with a really stiff neck. Having trouble moving with range of motion, she was in pain. She thought maybe it started a few days before she slept on it wrong. Up to this point, she felt like Frankenstein having to turn her whole body to look to the side. Actually tucking her chin and tilting her head back were now the most limited.
We reviewed her history. Before we started, she asked, “What are you going to do? My grandparents are chiropractors. I’m not sure I want my neck ‘popped.’”
I explained to her that although there are some similarities, there are also significant differences between osteopaths and chiropractors. My patients who have been to chiropractors prior to seeing me don’t find the experiences to be similar. I let her know that although I am trained to do thrusting techniques, I personally don’t generally use them because I haven’t seen they produce the long term results I look for.
“I evaluate your whole body from your head to your feet and based on my findings, form a treatment approach each visit. I don’t try to force things into positions where they are not. My purpose is to help the body resolve the issues that it is unable to on its own. I’m more like a catalyst for healing. If we’re successful, things will shift and move by themselves without being forced.” I explained.
“Sounds great!” she replied, “Let’s do it.”
I went through and evaluated her body looking for clues as to the pieces that might be leading to her neck pain and stiffness. She had some stiffness in her pelvis and low back that my have been contributing, but in her case, most of the problems were in her upper back, neck, and head.
“I also have TMJ,” she said as I evaluated her jaw.
“Yeah, but also your neck is stuck so forward on your skull that your atlas (the neck bone the head sits on) is blocking your jaw from opening correctly.” I mentioned.
When she opened her mouth wide, we could feel the jaw rubbing and grinding on her atlas bone. That would certainly be a good reason as to why she would not be able to tuck her chin and look back well. But what was causing that?
Based on how the front of her neck felt, I suspected her tongue might be the biggest culprit. I addressed some other issue that I felt might be contributing in the skull which did improve the issue a little. Although anatomically the tongue is not directly attached onto the atlas, I have noticed that tension there will put a tremendous amount of pressure on the upper neck in many patients.
I put on a glove and went to work on releasing tension in her tongue. Placing but the lightest of pressure under her tongue on the column that connects it to the floor of the mouth on the right, I could tell by her response that it was extremely painful.
She was amazed later when I showed her how little pressure I used.
“I could have sworn you were pushing as hard as you could,” she said.
“If it was that sensitive, it was likely very significant from my perspective.” I replied.
Once I felt her tongue release a little, I rechecked her neck. The atlas had shifted back and now was situated more correctly. The tissues in her upper neck had relaxed dramatically. At this point, I knew she would have normal motion back in her neck. Her pelvis was still an issue so I released that.
I thought I was done, but I was wrong.
“It all feels really good but there’s a spot on my right upper back that has always hurt and I was wondering if there was anything you could do about it?” she asked.
I had been monitoring her upper back and there was much more pliability there. Getting more focused, I was able to isolate some ribs in her upper back that were still rigid and no moving well.
“Yes, right there,” she mentioned, “No one has been able to ever make that spot go away.”
There were two things I noticed that were causing that. First of all, her shoulder blade was adhered to her rib cage where the range of motion of her shoulder blade was limited. Normally, I can get my fingers on the under surface of the shoulder blade and lift it up off of the wall of the rib cage, but not with her. It usually glides freely along the wall of the rib cage, but again, not with Kristy.
That also made me suspect she had a problem in her chest. Her pectoral muscles were tightly contracted and incredibly sensitive. I went back first to restore some motion in her shoulder blade. Once it released, I went to work on her pectoral muscles.
This brings us back to the beginning of the story. It was at this point that Kristy began moaning. Once I felt her pectoral muscles relax, I went back and checked the upper ribs. They were now feeling pliable, supple, and were moving like normal ribs do. She ended up being more impressed by that release than getting her neck motion restored and pain relieved.
“I’ve had a lot of body work and that was amazing,” she exclaimed.
With neck issues like anywhere else in the body, to get results sometimes takes a different approach. It’s my job to be as complete as possible and address as many issues as possible. In my opinion, that’s one of the pieces that distinguishes osteopathy is that it requires looking and understanding beyond where someone has pain. Each patient has to be addressed in a unique way. That’s the osteopathic difference.
Give osteopathy a try. If you’re in the Denver area, give us a call at 303-350-7990 and see why according to Vitals, osteopathic manipulative treatment / neuromusculoskeletal medicine is the highest reviewed specialty in medicine.