Neck pain is a very common problem, as the cervical spine (the top part of the spine that supports our heavy head) is the most flexible part of the spinal column, with an ability to bend in multiple directions, which also makes it more vulnerable to injury. Neck pain can be either acute or chronic.
Acute neck pain is most often due to an accident or injury where the neck is suddenly whipped back and forth, causing whiplash. The sudden motion injures the ligaments and tissues that support the neck. Car accidents (especially being hit from the rear) are the most common cause of whiplash, however, whiplash can also be due to injury from such things as an intense rollercoaster ride, skiing accident or falling off a bicycle.
Chronic neck pain can be the result of either spinal degeneration or lifestyle. As we age it’s more common to acquire degenerative diseases such as cervical spondylosis, which is excessive wear and tear on the cartilage and bones in the neck. As we get older, the elasticity and thickness of the cartilage cushioning the vertebrae begins to break down, which can put pressure on the nerves. This can lead to pain, tingling or numbness in the affected area.
Neck pain can also be due to our modern more sedentary lifestyle, in which poor posture, a weak abdomen and obesity contribute to putting the spine out of balance. The spine’s supporting muscles work harder to try to keep the spine straight, leading to increased muscle tension and fatigue, and eventually neck pain.
Chiropractic care has been proven to be useful in treating neck pain. One study, published in The Annals of Internal Medicine, found that chiropractic treatment reduced neck pain more than medications such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen or even narcotics. After 12 weeks, 57% of the test group receiving chiropractic treatment reported a pain reduction of at least 75%, whereas only 33% of the medication-only group had the same response.
Another study in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics found significant improvement in chronic neck pain from spinal manipulation, with improvements continuing up to 12 weeks post-treatment. The same effect was not found with massage therapy.
A chiropractic neck adjustment (cervical manipulation) can significantly improve range of motion in your neck, allowing you to move your head around pain-free. It also helps to relax your neck muscles, reducing tension and stiffness.
A qualified chiropractor can do a physical and neurological exam to determine the nature of your neck pain. They may also order additional tests, such as an x-ray, CAT scan or MRI to show possible fractures, bone spurs, bulging discs or herniations. They will then consult with you on a course of treatment that, in addition to in-office treatments, may include specialized exercises you can do yourself at home.