Chiropractic care (also simply “chiropractic”) is a health care discipline that emphasizes the inherent power of the body to heal itself without the use of drugs or surgery. It focuses on the relationship between the body’s structure (primarily the spine) and function (as coordinated by the nervous system) and how that relationship affects the preservation and restoration of health. When appropriate, doctors of chiropractic work in cooperation with the patient’s other health care practitioners.
The chiropractic oath is a modern variation of the classical Hippocratic Oath historically taken by physicians and other healthcare professionals swearing to practice their professions ethically.[190] The American Chiropractic Association (ACA) has an ethical code "based upon the acknowledgement that the social contract dictates the profession's responsibilities to the patient, the public, and the profession; and upholds the fundamental principle that the paramount purpose of the chiropractic doctor's professional services shall be to benefit the patient."[191] The International Chiropractor's Association (ICA) also has a set of professional canons.[192]
The nerve roots stem from the spinal cord like tree branches through foramen in the vertebrae. Each nerve root transmits signals (nerve impulses) to and from the brain, shoulders, arms, and chest. A vascular system of 4 arteries and veins run through the neck to circulate blood between the brain and the heart. Joints, muscles, and ligaments facilitate movement and serve to stabilize the structure.
What is cervicalgia and how is it treated? Learn all about cervicalgia, a pain in the neck. It involves a sharp pain in the neck area when certain movements are made. Poor posture, traumatic injury, and stress are some of the common causes. Symptoms include stiffness and difficulty moving the neck. Find out more about neck pain and how to treat and prevent it. Read now
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 cervical spine is also surrounded by a thick, tangled web of nerves. In general, those nerves are amazingly difficult to irritate, much harder than people think, but it’s not impossible. Many sharp and shooting neck pains are probably caused by minor neuropathy (pain from nerve irritation) that will ease gradually over several days or a few weeks at the worst, like a bruise healing. It’s unpleasant, but not actually scary, like banging your funny bone (ulnar nerve): that thing can really take a licking and keep on ticking. So can the nerves in your neck.
Temporal arteritis [healthline] is an inflammation of arteries in the temple, with a lot of symptoms: severe headache, fever, scalp tenderness, jaw pain, vision trouble, and ringing in the ears are all possible symptoms, along with neck pain. It’s almost unheard of in people younger than 50, and it usually occurs in people with other diseases or infections.
One of the most common and well known therapeutic procedures performed by doctors of chiropractic is spinal manipulation (sometimes referred to as a "chiropractic adjustment"). The purpose of spinal manipulation is to restore joint mobility by manually applying a controlled force into joints that have become hypomobile – or restricted in their movement – as a result of a tissue injury. Tissue injury can be caused by a single traumatic event, such as improper lifting of a heavy object, or through repetitive stresses, such as sitting in an awkward position with poor spinal posture for an extended period of time. In either case, injured tissues undergo physical and chemical changes that can cause inflammation, pain, and diminished function for an individual. Manipulation, or adjustment of the affected joint and tissues, restores mobility, thereby alleviating pain and muscle tightness, allowing tissues to heal.

“When your neck muscles become weak and you try to turn your head, the joint no longer moves smoothly because it’s now out of place,” Dr. Bang says. “Often the joint catches on something, either pulling a muscle or hitting the nerve irregularly, or maybe both. Then you’ll have instant pain and your body has a protective spasm. Your body doesn’t want you to get hurt more, so it will clench, causing you to feel like you can’t even move — and leaving you wondering what you did to injure yourself.”
Spinal manipulation is associated with frequent, mild and temporary adverse effects,[14][138] including new or worsening pain or stiffness in the affected region.[139] They have been estimated to occur in 33% to 61% of patients, and frequently occur within an hour of treatment and disappear within 24 to 48 hours;[13] adverse reactions appear to be more common following manipulation than mobilization.[140] The most frequently stated adverse effects are mild headache, soreness, and briefly elevated pain fatigue.[141] Chiropractic is correlated with a very high incidence of minor adverse effects.[4] Chiropractic are more commonly associated with serious related adverse effects than other professionals following manipulation.[17] Rarely,[46] spinal manipulation, particularly on the upper spine, can also result in complications that can lead to permanent disability or death; these can occur in adults[14] and children.[142] There is a case of a three-month-old dying following manipulation of the neck area.[137] Estimates vary widely for the incidence of these complications,[13] and the actual incidence is unknown, due to high levels of underreporting and to the difficulty of linking manipulation to adverse effects such as stroke, which is a particular concern.[14] Adverse effects are poorly reported in recent studies investigating chiropractic manipulations.[143] A 2016 systematic review concludes that the level of reporting is unsuitable and unacceptable.[144] Reports of serious adverse events have occurred, resulting from spinal manipulation therapy of the lumbopelvic region.[145] Estimates for serious adverse events vary from 5 strokes per 100,000 manipulations to 1.46 serious adverse events per 10 million manipulations and 2.68 deaths per 10 million manipulations, though it was determined that there was inadequate data to be conclusive.[13] Several case reports show temporal associations between interventions and potentially serious complications.[146] The published medical literature contains reports of 26 deaths since 1934 following chiropractic manipulations and many more seem to remain unpublished.[17]
Extremity conditions. A 2011 systematic review and meta-analysis concluded that the addition of manual mobilizations to an exercise program for the treatment of knee osteoarthritis resulted in better pain relief than a supervised exercise program alone and suggested that manual therapists consider adding manual mobilisation to optimise supervised active exercise programs.[115] There is silver level evidence that manual therapy is more effective than exercise for the treatment of hip osteoarthritis, however this evidence could be considered to be inconclusive.[116] There is a small amount of research into the efficacy of chiropractic treatment for upper limbs,[117] limited to low level evidence supporting chiropractic management of shoulder pain[118] and limited or fair evidence supporting chiropractic management of leg conditions.[119]
Chronic neck pain is pain, stiffness, and soreness in the neck, perhaps with decreased mobility, that lasts more than several weeks. The traditional medical response to neck pain is to recommend pain relievers, but drugs simply mask the symptoms – and taking them for an indefinite period can do more harm than good. Treating chronic pain through traditional means (including pain management, injections, chiropractic manipulation, and surgery) is not likely to resolve the true source of the pain.

One of the reasons I wanted to visit the chiropractor was to take a more active role in my overall health and wellness. I specifically chose an integrated clinic, which offered not only chiropractic care, but also physical therapy, massage therapy and nutrition consultation. We discussed the addition of multi-vitamins, fish oil and vitamin D to my wellness plan. One thing I learned through this wellness planning? Everyone’s health journey is different! Since health is personal, your approach should be tailored to your specific needs. My focus on an integrated clinic may not be right for you, but I found value in being educated about all the options available to me.
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