Neck pain is just that – pain in the neck. Pain can be localized to the cervical spine or may travel down an arm (radiculopathy). All age groups are at risk of developing neck pain. People who sit in one location staring at computer screens for long periods of time may be at an increased risk. About 30% of the population has an episode of neck pain each year. Neck pain may occur slightly more frequently in women than men.
Chiropractic was developed by Daniel David Palmer, a self-taught healer in Davenport, Iowa. Palmer wanted to find a cure for disease and illness that did not use drugs. He studied the structure of the spine and the ancient art of moving the body with the hands (manipulation). Palmer started the Palmer School of Chiropractic, which still exists today.
Age, injury, poor posture or diseases such as arthritis can lead to degeneration of the bones or joints of the cervical spine, causing disc herniation or bone spurs to form. Sudden severe injury to the neck may also contribute to disc herniation, whiplash, blood vessel destruction, vertebral injury and, in extreme cases, permanent paralysis. Herniated discs or bone spurs may cause a narrowing of the spinal canal or the small openings through which spinal nerve roots exit. Pressure on a nerve root by a herniated disc or a bone spur may result in:
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A 2010 study by questionnaire presented to UK chiropractors indicated only 45% of chiropractors disclosed with patients the serious risk associated with manipulation of the cervical spine and that 46% believed there was possibility of patient would refuse treatment if risk correctly explained. However 80% acknowledged the ethical/moral responsibility to disclose risk to patient.
The treatment of soft tissue neck and shoulder pain often includes the use of anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve or Naprosyn). Pain relievers such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) may also be recommended. Depending on the source of pain, drugs like muscle relaxers and even antidepressants might be helpful. Pain also may be treated with a local application of moist heat or ice. Local corticosteroid injections are often helpful for arthritis of the shoulder. For both neck and shoulder pain movement, exercises may help. For cases in which nerve roots or the spinal cord are involved, surgical procedures may be necessary. Your doctor can tell you which is the best course of treatment for you.
Some skin problems on the neck can cause neck pain, but are usually obvious — most people will identify them as “skin problems on the neck” and not “a neck problem affecting the skin.” Herpes zoster (shingles) [CDC] causes a painful rash, cellulitis [Mayo] is extremely painful but superficial, and a carbuncle[Wikipedia] … well, it’s just a super zit, basically. If you can’t diagnose that one on your own, I can’t help you!
Chiropractic's origins lie in the folk medicine of bonesetting, and as it evolved it incorporated vitalism, spiritual inspiration and rationalism. Its early philosophy was based on deduction from irrefutable doctrine, which helped distinguish chiropractic from medicine, provided it with legal and political defenses against claims of practicing medicine without a license, and allowed chiropractors to establish themselves as an autonomous profession. This "straight" philosophy, taught to generations of chiropractors, rejects the inferential reasoning of the scientific method, and relies on deductions from vitalistic first principles rather than on the materialism of science. However, most practitioners tend to incorporate scientific research into chiropractic, and most practitioners are "mixers" who attempt to combine the materialistic reductionism of science with the metaphysics of their predecessors and with the holistic paradigm of wellness. A 2008 commentary proposed that chiropractic actively divorce itself from the straight philosophy as part of a campaign to eliminate untestable dogma and engage in critical thinking and evidence-based research.
Chiropractors emphasize the conservative management of the neuromusculoskeletal system without the use of medicines or surgery, with special emphasis on the spine. Back and neck pain are the specialties of chiropractic but many chiropractors treat ailments other than musculoskeletal issues. There is a range of opinions among chiropractors: some believed that treatment should be confined to the spine, or back and neck pain; others disagreed. For example, while one 2009 survey of American chiropractors had found that 73% classified themselves as "back pain/musculoskeletal specialists", the label "back and neck pain specialists" was regarded by 47% of them as a least desirable description in a 2005 international survey. Chiropractic combines aspects from mainstream and alternative medicine, and there is no agreement about how to define the profession: although chiropractors have many attributes of primary care providers, chiropractic has more of the attributes of a medical specialty like dentistry or podiatry. It has been proposed that chiropractors specialize in nonsurgical spine care, instead of attempting to also treat other problems, but the more expansive view of chiropractic is still widespread.
The AANS does not endorse any treatments, procedures, products or physicians referenced in these patient fact sheets. This information is provided as an educational service and is not intended to serve as medical advice. Anyone seeking specific neurosurgical advice or assistance should consult his or her neurosurgeon, or locate one in your area through the AANS’ Find a Board-certified Neurosurgeon online tool.
The treatment plan may involve one or more manual adjustments in which the doctor manipulates the joints, using a controlled, sudden force to improve range and quality of motion. Many chiropractors also incorporate nutritional counseling and exercise/rehabilitation into the treatment plan. The goals of chiropractic care include the restoration of function and prevention of injury in addition to back pain relief.