Neck pain is a very common experience. Over the course of every three months, 15% of adults will experience neck pain from a variety of causes. A lot of the time, neck pain is very short-lived, but occasionally it can become an ongoing problem. In these cases, many people seek chiropractic care to relieve their pain and increase their mobility.
Causes of neck pain
In most cases, neck pain has a simple or mechanical cause. This means that the neck pain is caused by damage to the musculoskeletal system, and doesn't involve any nerves being trapped. Mechanical neck pain can be triggered by a variety of causes, including:
• Trauma to the muscle, ligaments, or joints. This can be the result of a wide range of incidents, from sports injuries, falls at home, a car accident, or many more.
• Poor sleeping position. It is surprising the amount of damage that can be done by sleeping for eight hours in the wrong position.
• Poor posture. This can put strain on the muscles and connective tissue in the neck.
In some cases, these problems can lead to a trapped or compressed nerve. Nerves that radiate out from the spine can be trapped between elements of the musculoskeletal system, such as bone, ligaments, or muscles. When this happens, it sends pain signals to the brain. If this is left untreated, the area can become inflamed, swollen, and scarred. This extra damage can cause further pain and restrict the range of movement.
The wear and tear that comes with old age can also make neck pain more common. Over time, the protective discs between the vertebra narrow, reducing the amount of cushioning between the vertebrae, and this can lead to pain and stiffness.
How chiropractic care can help neck pain
Chiropractors are experts in diagnosing and treating problems with the spine. Chiropractic care can offer a range of treatments to help treat neck pain, depending on the root cause.
Before treatment begins, there is an in-depth diagnostic process to discover the cause of the neck pain. This can include taking a detailed medical history, x-rays, blood tests, and MRI scans.
• manual adjustments of the cervical spine or instrument-assisted manipulations
• mobilization of the cervical spine
• stretching exercises
• therapeutic massage
• trigger point therapy
• heat therapy
• electrical stimulation
• cold therapy
As part of the treatment plan, chiropractors can also offer advice about how to prevent neck pain in the future. This can include posture advice, sleep advice (including if chiropractic pillows are needed), exercise and nutritional advice, and work advice (e.g. desk/computer set up).
If the chiropractor feels that the neck pain requires treatment from other health professionals, then they can refer the patient to the type of care that will best help them.
In a study that looked at patients who attended a chiropractic clinic for treatment of acute neck pain, it was found that 96% were either satisfied or very satisfied with their care, and 98% were definitely or very likely to choose chiropractic care again in the future. All patients experienced a reduction in pain scores and an increase in the range of motion in their neck (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2786244/).
Neck pain can have a variety of causes and for many of these, chiropractic care can be an effective treatment that can reduce pain and improve the range of motion. There are several treatment techniques that can be implemented to treat neck pain and, in many cases, multiple treatment types will be offered to fully support the patient in their recovery.