Dear Dr. Batchelor:
My best friend and running buddy, Tony Whalen, referred me to you. He told me that you fixed his sciatic pain.Last month, I helped a friend move her furniture from one house to another. The next day, I woke up with an inability to turn my head to the right or left. I looked and felt like old Ed Sullivan! After four weeks, the condition has still not improved, and now, in addition to the pain in my neck, there is a "tingling" that radiates from the right side of my neck into my right little finger.
The worst aspect of the pain is that it has been affecting my fitness program. I cannot lift weights, and when I drive a car, ride a bike or run and try to turn my head to look around for traffic, I have to turn my whole body. It's painful, not to mention dangerous. Also, when I'm running, each time my foot hits the ground, it feels as if someone is sticking a screwdriver into the joint on the right side of my neck for a fraction of a second.
I took Motrin and Aleve, but they've had no effect. I went to my medical PPO provider, and he gave me some stronger stuff, but I really can't feel any difference. Now it's been four weeks, my entire right arm is weaker, and I don't see a solution in sight.
Can you fix my neck, please?
I have treated many patients over the past 22 years with similar symptoms as yours. In fact, just today a roofer/carpenter named Alan presented himself at my clinic with bilateral cervical spasm with numbness and tingling into both arms. The imbalance had developed over the years as a result of carrying stacks of shingles up ladders, etc. His condition had become chronic because he continued to carry shingles regardless of the pain. He developed a high pain threshold, and simply ignored much of the pain. Eventually, he could no longer bear the pain and had to resort to taking painkillers. Now, the painkillers have no effect, so he decided to seek treatment at my clinic.
Diagnosis: X-rays of Alan's neck showed that he had a group of cervical vertebrae misaligned to the right side - no doubt from carrying heavy shingles, long hours of sustained hammering, and lifting heavy pieces of wood, all while favoring muscles on one side of the body. The cervical vertebrae had rotated out of position and pinched on the sensitive nerves that exit between the vertebrae. This whole process began as a result of the unequal tone that developed in the muscles in his neck as a result of his job. Several cervical vertebrae rotated to the right because it became the stronger-sided muscle group.
Treatment: I utilized cervical traction to decompress the irritated nerve; specific spinal manipulation to re-align the rotated joints; deep tissue therapy to relieve the tightness; iontophoresis to reduce inflammation and tightness of the muscles; ultrasound to break up fibrosis and soften scar tissue; and specific exercises to re-establish normal muscle symmetry in the cervical spine.
The patient was treated at 8 a.m. this morning; by the time he left the clinic 30 minutes later, his symptoms had improved by 70 percent to 80 percent.
Prognosis: Stabilizing the joint with specific one-sided exercises, and avoiding the one-sided imbalances that created the entire problem in the first place, is Alan's responsibility. Prognosis is good if he continues to do his exercises, and doesn't rely solely on symptomatic improvement. Once his symptoms are gone, he must continue to do his exercises, until the muscles on the left side of his neck have the same tone as the muscles on the right side of his neck. If he doesn't continue to perform these exercises, and continues to carry the shingles on one side of his body, he can expect to return to my office repeatedly for ongoing treatment.
Of course, it's impossible to diagnose your exact condition over the phone, but in the worst-case scenario you could possibly have a ruptured disc that requires more invasive treatment. The best-case scenario is that you have a slight rotational cervical misalignment in your neck, which is fairly easy to correct.
Let's hope it's the second scenario. See you soon!
Daniel C. Batchelor, DC
Editor's note: When not treating patients, Dr. Batchelor enjoys running and cycling. He was the number-one-ranked mountain bike duathlete in Atlanta from 1996-2000. He has been a consultant for Runners World; Running in Georgia; Running Journal; Georgia Runner; and Run and See Georgia magazines. He has won over 350 road races, run over 60,000 miles and treated over 100,000 patients for a variety of conditions. He has been interviewed on CNN Headline News as an expert on athletic injury and back pain.
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