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chronic neck pain: the importance of understanding sectional motion -vs- segmental motion


“A chain is only as strong as its weakest link.” When it comes to the various ways that the neck’s soft tissues (MUSCLES, TENDONS, LIGAMENTS, and FASCIA) can be injured, although things like “WHIPLASH” are certainly common, the mechanisms are almost unlimited.  On top of this, there is an almost unlimited number of ways to effectively deal with neck injuries as well. 

While this is fine, treatment — especially of the chronic or long-term patient — must progress in a stepwise fashion.  For instance, if PHASE II is put ahead of PHASE I in the chronic patient, results can be compromised.  Understanding why means understanding the importance, as well as the differences, between segmental and sectional motion of the spine, and particularly the neck.

When people with CHRONIC NECK PAIN go to their doctor; although they are likely to get imaging that is either dangerous or totally ineffective as far as revealing where their pain is actually coming from (HERE, HERE, or HERE) is concerned, they are likely not to receive the simplest and best test (RANGES OF MOTION) for quickly assessing how severe the problem might be.  Once injured people figure out that THE DRUGS THEY WERE PRESCRIBED not only aren’t working, but are actually making them worse, they see someone else — practitioners of all sorts, therapists, chiros, specialists, etc, etc. 

Ranges of Motion are checked (or not) and the patient is frequently told to stretch because their neck is tight, bound, restricted, stiff, and full of arthritis.  The problem is, often times they can’t stretch — or at least they can’t stretch like they are supposed to.  Things aren’t working.  Either their stretching is making them worse (HERE), or they are hitting A BRICK WALL OF RESTRICTION that they cannot push past.  Enter the two ranges of motion we are discussing today, Sectional and Segmental.

Sectional Motion in Neck Pain -vs- Segmental Motion in Neck Pain


Sectional Ranges of Motion describes your ability to grossly move your head in it’s normal ranges of motion.  I call these ranges “yes” “no” and “maybe”. 

“Yes” is like nodding your head yes — can you flex your chin to your chest (or thereabouts) without pain, and can you extend your head backwards so that you could put a glass of water on your forehead?  “No” is like nodding your head no, and involves being able to rotate your head both right and left to the point where your nose is over your shoulder.  “Maybe” is kind of like shrugging your shoulders and tipping your head to one side (nodding your head maybe), only in this case, don’t shrug your shoulders toward your head; move your head toward one shoulder and then the other. 

While there are any number of reasons that your neck might not be able to move through normal ranges of motion (don’t be surprised to have said restriction blamed on “ARTHRITIS” or old age), be aware that you can address the Scar Tissue with things like TISSUE REMODELING or TISSUE DEFORMATION and still not attain anything remotely near normal ROM of your neck.   Often times this is due to a failure to address….


There are a total of 24 moving vertebrae in your spine.  Your SKULL, 7 neck vertebrae, 12 thoracic vertebrae (AND THEIR RIBS), 5 lumbar or low back vertebrae, and the sacrum or tail bone.  Every one of these bones must go through its normal ranges of motion.  Remember that any joint not regularly being moved through normal ranges of motion is in a heightened process of wear and degeneration (thin discs, calcium buildup, and bone spurring). 

The more the joints deteriorate, the worse they move — and the worse they move, the more they deteriorate.  This is why it is not terribly unusual to have individuals who have normal Sectional Ranges of Motion (gross ranges of motion or overall ranges of motion) in their neck, yet have segments of their neck that are barely moving or not moving at all.  So even though their overall range of neck motion looks good, there are aberrant mechanical stresses being put on both joints and tissues because one or more of the individual segments are “stuck”.

It’s Not Just Neck Pain Affected by Segmental -vs- Sectional Motion Abnormalities

As you might imagine, this phenomenon not only affects necks, it affects other areas of the spine as well.  A classic example is the diamond-shaped THORACOLUMBAR AREA of the low back.  People are frequently told their chronic low back pain is due to DISC HERNIATION, DEGENERATIVE JOINT / DISC DISEASE, etc.  It’s common to see people who have been through large numbers of treatments that involve stretching and strengthening, and often times lots of adjustments.   Sometimes, lots of adjustments. 

These problems can frequently be solved simply by following the proper order (Phase I before Phase II as I discussed in the first paragraph) and being sure that the Scar Tissue is really broken (HERE).  To better understand this concept, take a look at these seven second 3-D ultrasound videos of adhesed fascia compared side by side to normal fascia (HERE).  Allow me to show you the practical side of segmental -vs- sectional function.

I saw a patient yesterday who had been referred in by a couple who had received incredible results with Tissue Remodeling after trying everything else.  Even though this individual was only in his early thirties, he had been dealing with chronic low back pain for the better part of a decade, with no one (all the professionals mentioned earlier) being able to help him.  After finding and “BREAKING” an area of Scar Tissue about the size of a football, he could barely reproduce the pain.  A touch more treatment and he could not reproduce the pain — something he had not been able to do for years.

If stories like his interest you, take a look at our TESTIMONIAL PAGE, as well as some of our clinic’s VIDEO TESTIMONIALS.  I even took the time a number of years ago to create a post I called the WEEKLY PATIENT TREATMENT DIARY for some in-house research I was doing at the time.  In a day and age where everything is supposed to be “EVIDENCE-BASED,” what more can anyone ask for?


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