Neck Pain

Neck pain is the second commonest condition I see in practice, after low back pain. Often neck pain is accompanied with a loss of neck movement and sometimes headaches. In my over twenty years of treating patients with neck pain I have found long term solutions are only achieved when the true source of the problems is addressed.

Here are some important facts we should all know about neck pain:

  • Due to its anatomical role in linking the head to the body, the neck is subjected to large gravitation forces. Imagine balancing a 5.5 kg. bowling ball on the tips of your fingers… All day long…
  • Even the smallest deviation in the relationships of the head being unbalanced over the shoulders places excessive stress on the seven vertebrae, discs and muscles of the cervical spine
  • Not only can these excessive forces cause pain and reduced head and neck mobility, but also injury to the spinal discs, ligaments, joints and muscles.
  • The commonest cause of neck pain is due to either excessive: 1.repetitive stress, such as in postural problems, or 2. a single large force such as occurs in whiplash injuries.
  • The neck is a common site for referred pain into the head, arms, hands and back.
  • Sometimes special examinations such as X-ray or MRI scans may be needed to further confirm as diagnosis


Certain Symptoms can indicate the type of neck pain you have and therefore suggest the treatment most likely to be effective. I say most likely because of individual differences. Treatment should not only match the diagnosis but importantly the patient.

Neck Pain by Symptoms

  • Axial neck pain, the most common type of neck pain, is confined to the neck only and does not travel into the buttocks or legs.
  • Cervical radiculopathy is caused by conditions that compress the nerves as they exit from the spine. Pain is commonly more severe in the arm, hand  or between the shoulder blade and the spine. It is only felt on one side of the body and along with pain other symptoms include numbness, tingling or loss of muscle power.
  • Neck pain with referred pain, is pain that radiates into the head, shoulder, upper back and upper arm. Patients describe the pain as a dull and achy.


In addition to symptoms, by determining structural and functional problems a more effective treatment and management program can be implemented. Below are common structural and functional problems:

  1. Structural / Tissue

  • Soft Tissue injury: such as muscle strains, joint sprains or disc tears and commonly associated with either a specific injury or a repetitive movement, task or activity. The pain is usually localized and can be severe in nature.
  • Cervical disc herniation: Is where part of the disc herniates out of the disc and can put direct pressure on the nerve roots.  As well as neck, back, arm and hand pain, other symptoms such as muscle weakness or wasting, numbness in the arm or hand occurs.
  • Degenerative disc disease: Due to excessive forces or injury, the disc  start to degenerate. Although more common as we age, the process can begin quite early in some.
  • Osteoarthritis: Due to the breakdown in cartilage in the small joints of the spine, just as occurs in other weight bearing joints like knee and hip joints. Unfortunately, the spinal joints cannot be replaced like the hip and knee can.
  • Spinal Stenosis: Where disc material or bony growth reduces the space for the spinal cord with the result of pressure on to the spinal cord. Not only pain can occur but serious loss of body functions including use of the legs, balance, bowel and bladder. When the spinal cord is involved the condition is referred to as a  myelopathy.
  1. Functional (or rather dysfunctional)

  • Poor movement patterns or postures (habits) done repetitively.
  • Poor muscle endurance or strength
  • Loss of normal motion between spinal vertebral segments

Remember these are textbook classifications, the majority of  neck pain will include more than one Condition

Treatment and Management:

All Conditions follow a similar progression, although the means of achieving this will be both condition and patient specific.

  1. Control pain and the inflammatory process, prevent further injury or progression.
  2. Restore joint range of motion and soft tissue extensibility
  3. Improve muscle strength and endurance
  4. Re-train faulty movement and posture patterns
  5. Improve general cardiovascular conditioning
  6. Development of practical, user friendly spinal maintenance program
  7. Address any lifestyle, psychological, social, workplace issues contributing to problem
  8. Referral when indicated to appropriate specialist

The Type of Neck Pain, the degree of healing, and your personal uniqueness MUST determine your Treatment

Your Choices

I have helped many people with safe and natural chiropractic care. However, other choices include:

  • Ignore it! (Spinal problems may worsen by causing further damage.)
  • Rest it! (May prolong the problem through deconditioning of the spine, the opposite of what it needs.)
  • Stretch it, Move it! (Without a correct diagnosis runs the risk of further tissue damage.)
  • Drug it! (Numbs the body, effective in pain control but does not correct the underlying problem.)
  • Remove it! (Surgery, The most serious last resort once other options have been tried.)


  • Take Action (Call and book an appointment)
  • Find out what’s wrong (Initial Consultation)
  • Follow Through (Make a commitment to get it right)

Frequently Asked Questions:

  • It’s easy to trace some spinal problems to an event, such as a car accident. Yet, sciatica is often the result of cumulative damage. Years of bad posture, poor muscle tone, excess weight or countless other causes sets the stage. Then, something simple like bending over to tie your shoes can trigger an episode. Spinal decay can be another culprit. Instead of disc thinning that puts pressure on the sciatic nerve roots, arthritic bone spurs can intrude into the space normally reserved for the nerve.
  • Actually, chiropractic doesn’t cure anything! Only your body can do that. The chiropractic approach to sciatica (and other health problems) is to help restore the way your spine works, reducing nerve irritation and revitalizing your own healing ability.
  • Most sciatica patients  are delighted with the results they get after weeks or months of care. Naturally, this varies from patient to patients . After a relapse or two, many discover that years of neglect have produced spinal instabilities that never fully heal. These patients  elect to continue with periodic chiropractic checkups. It’s up to you.
  • This is a common refrain. Because our bodies are unusually adaptive, we can often accommodate a variety of stresses for years. Finally, like the “straw that broke the camel’s back,” we turn or bend funny and suddenly our spine succumbs to the accumulation of stress.