As of 2014, the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners states "The specific focus of chiropractic practice is known as the chiropractic subluxation or joint dysfunction. A subluxation is a health concern that manifests in the skeletal joints, and, through complex anatomical and physiological relationships, affects the nervous system and may lead to reduced function, disability or illness."[51][52]

Although a wide diversity of ideas exist among chiropractors,[30] they share the belief that the spine and health are related in a fundamental way, and that this relationship is mediated through the nervous system.[33] Some chiropractors claim spinal manipulation can have an effect of a variety of ailments such as irritable bowel syndrome and asthma.[7]

Important! None of these are dangerous! Although some are quite unpleasant. Reading about medical problems on the Internet can easily freak us out,13 so the goal here is to identify possible causes of neck pain that are not so scary. If you can get a positive ID on one of these conditions, then you get to stop worrying about the threat of something worse.


This article gives a well-rounded picture about things that can cause neck and arm pain. However, a patient should consult with their own physician rather than doing a self-diagnosis.  Some conditions, such as coronary artery disease (angina) or even lung tumors may mimic these conditions.  It is best to have a skilled physician perform a thorough physical examination when the symptoms described are present.

Don’t medically investigate neck pain until it’s met at least three criteria: (1) it’s been bothering you for more than about 6 weeks; (2) it’s severe and/or not improving, or actually getting worse; and (3) there’s at least one other “red flag” (age over 55 or under 20, painful to light tapping, fever/malaise/nausea, weight loss, nasty headache, severe stiffness, very distinctive pain, and numbness and/or tingling and/or weakness anywhere else). Note that signs of arthritis are not red flags.


Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
Although it’s rare, once in a while neck pain may be a warning sign of cancer, infection, autoimmune disease, or some kind of structural problem like spinal cord injury or a threat to an important blood vessel. Some of these ominous situations cause hard-to-miss signs and symptoms other than pain and are likely to be diagnosed correctly and promptly — so, if it feels serious, go get checked out. Otherwise, if you are aware of the “red flags,” you can get checked out when the time is right — and avoid excessive worry until then.
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.
Neck pain can also be associated with headache, facial pain, shoulder pain, and arm numbness or tingling (upper extremity paresthesias). These associated symptoms are often a result of nerves becoming pinched in the neck. Depending on the condition, sometimes neck pain is accompanied by upper back and/or lower back pain, as is common in inflammation of the spine from ankylosing spondylitis.
My niece has some spine disorders, and I think that being able to visit a chiropractor would be helpful for her. I’m glad that you talked about chiropractors being able to have a knowledge of anatomy and physiology, and I think that being able to have this knowledge would help them with her spine disorders. I’m going to have to see if a chiropractor would be the best option, or if we could find a specialist for spine disorders! Thanks for the information!
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.
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