Neck pain and headaches often occur simultaneously and are two of the most common reasons patients seek chiropractic care. Therefore, it is important for a doctor of chiropractic to perform a careful medical history and examination to determine if the patient’s headaches and neck pain are truly related or if the problems need to be addressed independently. This is the process that most patients with a combination of neck pain and headaches can expect when seeing a chiropractor.
Chiropractic physicians start with a history that includes the following: 1) previous injuries or accidents; 2) family history, social history (including education level and occupation, sleep habits, tobacco/alcohol use, and more); 3) history of allergies; 4) vaccination history; 5) current medication use to identify potential side effects; 6) review of your systems (cardiovascular, respiratory, ears/nose/throat, genitourinary and more).
The updated history then analyzes each complaint individually to determine onset, palliatives, and provocative positions/activities/situations, quality of symptoms, radiation and location of complaints, severity of complaints (pain, in this timing, on average, best and worst) and timing (better in the morning or at night, job-related, hormonal changes or patterns).
The exam may include vital signs (blood pressure, pulse, breathing, height, weight, temperature, etc.); observation of posture, gait, movement, affect, facial expression; muscle palpation, trigger points, joint noise (crepitus), warmth; orthopedic tests that cause an increase and/or decrease in pain/symptoms; neurological tests; and consideration for special tests such as x-rays, blood tests, or specialized evaluation.
Some patients may experience initial pain after their first treatment, but will generally feel improvements in pain and disability after several visits, at which point their chiropractic doctor may adjust the treatment plan or release the patient from care.