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Is it hard to look over your shoulder? Is there a constant pulling or throbbing pain in your neck? Do you notice a “grinding” sound as you turn your head? Chiropractic care can offer neck pain relief by treating the cause of the pain.

A popular response to neck pain is taking drugs to cover up the problem (aspirin, analgesics, pain pills) or treating its symptoms (muscle relaxers, massage, hot packs), but neck pain isn’t caused by a lack of aspirin or drugs.

The chiropractic approach to neck pain is to locate the underlying cause. This begins with a complete case history and thorough examination. Special attention is given to the structure and function of the spine and its affect on the nervous system.

Is the proper spinal curve present? Are the nerve openings between each pair of spinal bones free and clear? Is the head balanced? Are the shoulders level? These and other considerations are used to create a plan of specific chiropractic adjustments to help improve the motion and position of spinal vertebrae.

With improved structure and function, neck pain often diminishes or totally disappears – without addictive drugs or harmful side effects.

In a study funded by NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine to test the effectiveness of different approaches for treating mechanical neck pain, 272 participants were divided into three groups that received either spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) from a doctor of chiropractic (DC), pain medication (over-the-counter pain relievers, narcotics and muscle relaxants) or exercise recommendations. After 12 weeks, about 57 percent of those who met with DCs and 48 percent who exercised reported at least a 75 percent reduction in pain, compared to 33 percent of the people in the medication group. After one year, approximately 53 percent of the drug-free groups continued to report at least a 75 percent reduction in pain; compared to just 38 percent pain reduction among those who took medication.

— Bronfort et al. (2012), Annals of Internal Medicine


Neck pain can be one of the most debilitating injuries a person can have. Whether it has been a longer term, chronic neck condition, or a severe sudden onset, many people find themselves struggling to find relief.  Speaking as a chiropractor, I often see that the neck pain journey often leads people to many different doctors, treatments, and promises of relief.  This includes neck braces, spinal decompression, medications and narcotics, surgical consults, and even surgeries.  The quality of life has decreased tremendously for every acute and chronic neck pain sufferer.

Some of the causes of neck pain could be degenerative disc disease, neck strain, whiplash, a herniated disc, or a pinched nerve. Sometimes it’s a combination of two or more of these conditions.

The quality of life has decreases tremendously for every acute and chronic neck pain sufferer.

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What is the difference between acute and chronic neck pain?

Acute Pain:

Acute pain has a sudden onset and typically is sharp and severe. These symptoms allow us to know that something is seriously wrong, and that we better take it very seriously. Acute neck pain can typically result from physical trauma resulting from car accidents, falls, sports, or anything that can create an impact. Acute pain can also result years later following one of these events, but are usually attributed to “sleeping wrong” or another minor even that is not typical of acute pain.

Acute pain may not be severe and only last seconds, or could be severe and last weeks, months, or years. In most instances of neck pain, the body does it’s best to heal naturally, but until the underlying problem is addressed, acute neck pain can become something that lasts a long time. In this case, acute neck pain can lead to chronic neck pain.

Chronic pain:

Chronic neck pain exists in spite of the fact that the initial neck injury has completed the healing process. Neck muscle spasms, limited range of motion and mobility, lack of energy, and changes activity levels are all physical symptoms of chronic neck pain. The effects of chronic neck pain also play a role in our emotional well being and can increase the chances of depression, anxiety, and anger. All of these problems lead to a lower quality of life, and the impact is immeasurable.

Chronic neck pain is often the result of a long term acute injury, but can also be created by emotional and chemical imbalances that manifest themselves in physical pain.

A study published in the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics found that patients who received chiropractic care reported significant improvement in their neck function and a reduction in their neck pain, whereas those taking painkillers did not.

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Physical Therapy treatment for neck pain can include a wide range of techniques some of which are; therapeutic exercise, mobilization, traction, electric stimulation, ultrasound, heat or cold therapy, massage, and patient education on body mechanics and proper lifting.

Stabilizing and strengthening the cervical spine is a key component in achieving and maintaining a healthy spine. A comprehensive rehabilitation program specified for each individual’s needs to be established to receive the best results possible. As always, prior to beginning an exercise program the individual should first consult with their physician.

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