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Neck Pain


It’s amazing how many people think that an achy neck is normal, or that everybody is stiff and sore in the shoulders, or that having more achy days than good days is okay. It’s not okay!

Sure we all get a little sore now and then. If you overdid it or even just slept wrong, you may get some muscle soreness. Most people take a wait and see approach with these little aggravations. Here’s the key to knowing if it’s “just a muscle ache”.  

 1. You’ll usually know exactly what you did that caused the problem.

 2. The soreness will usually be at its worst within 24-48 hours.

 3. The soreness will start easing up within 24-48 hours and be totally gone in another day or so.

There are a lot of names that people use for their neck ailments – from kinks and cricks to knots and a stiff neck. Sometimes they distract us at work and make us less productive and sometimes they make us a little cranky with less patience for an annoying co-worker or even for our kids.

But are these just everyday problems or are they something to worry about?   Well, if it’s a mild aggravation that only lasts a day or two, that’s not bad.  If the pain is more severe and isn’t going away, it’s time to get it checked. If you’ve had a pain for weeks, months or years, that’s more than just a muscle strain and should be evaluated. If there is pain, numbness or tingling into the arms, that’s even more severe. Or if the pain goes up the back of the head, gives you headaches or dizziness, again that’s more severe and should be checked out.


In looking for a cause, we can have 2 different viewpoints. First is the view from inside the body – what is wrong in there that is generating pain. The second is from outside the body – what am I doing that is causing my spine to act up.

So first – the view from the inside:

Just as with the low back, there can be many causes of neck pain. As we look at the neck or cervical section of the spine, we’ll find that there are 7 moveable bones or vertebrae. For trivia buffs, that’s the same number of vertebrae as in the neck of a giraffe.

In between each of the moveable bones is a disc, just like a cushion or shock absorber. And in the back of the vertebra are the joints, one on each side. Most of the time, pain will be coming from that disc or from the joints.

Discs can start to wear down.  We call this disc degeneration. As the wears down, it gets thinner, the vertebrae move closer together, and we’ll start to develop bone spurs.
Discs can also bulge or herniate. Most people have heard of herniated discs and may even know someone who suffered with that problem. A herniation is a portion of the disc that bulges out into the spinal canal or the nerve opening.
Spinal problems may also be caused by the joints in the back of the vertebrae. These spinal joints can degenerate over time, think of it like wear and tear. We call that arthritis.  

Not everyone gets these problems and they are certainly not normal.

But what about the view from the outside – our daily routine? Here’s a list that can get pretty long. Suffice to say that our posture, chairs, beds, pillows, our position while using computers and cellphones, reading and watching TV, the way we drive, trauma in sports, stress and a host of other things may make a difference. And for those who feel that “popping” or “cracking” their neck feels good so it must be good – it’s just the opposite. Feels good but leads to a chronic ache.


With so many causes of neck pain, what do we do about it?

Whether it’s just a muscle strain, arthritis or a disc problem, the best place to start is with a chiropractic consultation. Chiropractors are spine specialists. Rather than just look at your symptoms, chiropractors will look for the cause of the problem. They will also look for the factors in your daily routine that may be keep your problem from going away.


Finding the right doctor for your problem is so important.  Knowing that chiropractors are the largest group of spine specialists offering an alternative to drugs and surgery for your pain may start you in the right direction. Having your first evaluation with a doctor who understands your problem and can start you quickly on the path back to health means a lot when you’re suffering.  A chiropractor will also be able to recommend an overall program including postural changes and home exercises.  A well-rounded and balanced approach to restoring your health will help you get better faster and stay better longer, allowing you to return quickly to those things you enjoy.