After low back pain, neck pain is the second most common injury to present itself to a chiropractic office. This in part is due to the fact that the average head weighs approximately 12 pounds, and that the neck itself is highly flexible. This flexibility not only allows the head to move in nearly every direction, but also makes the neck highly susceptible to injury. Possible causes of injury include repetitive stress (wear and tear), poor posture and extended sitting (e.g. working on computers), improper ergonomics, motor vehicle accidents, falls and blows to the body and head, and normal aging.
A common term associated with neck pain, and motor vehicle accidents, is whiplash. Whiplash is often the result of a sudden force causing the head and neck to move in one direction, immediately followed by a rebound “whipping” in the opposite direction. This whipping action often causes compression of the joints and disc in the neck, and causes an over stretching of muscles and ligaments. As a result, inflammation is created in the area, causing the muscles to tighten up and spasm in response. These spasms often leave the muscles weakened, while simultaneously restricting the movement of the joints below.
It is these restrictions and spasms that your Doctor of Chiropractic will focus on reducing. The most common method for doing so is to utilize the chiropractic adjustment/manipulation. An adjustment involves applying a controlled force, usually by hand, to the restricted area/joints of the neck. This force restores mobility and range of motion to the spine, while simultaneously reducing muscle tension and improving muscle function. The adjustment is only applied following a thorough examination to ensure that chiropractic care is appropriate.
Another major source of neck pain, and perhaps the post preventable, is poor posture and lifestyle. Added weight, inactivity, and slouched posture can all contribute to improper biomechanics and balance of the spine. It is estimated that for every inch forward your head shifts past neutral (straight up and down), an additional 10 pounds of pressure is applied to the spine. Such inciting activities include extended computer use, extended reading, texting with your phone in your lap, crafting, driving, or any similar activity for too long a period. These activities may not only result in neck pain, but also headaches, shoulder pain, mid back pain, and symptoms into the arm and hands.
A 2007 review of nine studies, in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, found that there is “high-quality evidence” that patients with chronic neck pain showed significant pain-level improvement following spinal manipulation.
A more recent study, published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, found that spinal manipulation for acute, sub-acute, and chronic patients with cervical (neck) disc herniations produced significant improvements in symptoms with no adverse effects.