Spinal manipulation is associated with frequent, mild and temporary adverse effects, including new or worsening pain or stiffness in the affected region. 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; adverse reactions appear to be more common following manipulation than mobilization. The most frequently stated adverse effects are mild headache, soreness, and briefly elevated pain fatigue. Chiropractic is correlated with a very high incidence of minor adverse effects. Chiropractic are more commonly associated with serious related adverse effects than other professionals following manipulation. Rarely, 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 and children. There is a case of a three-month-old dying following manipulation of the neck area. Estimates vary widely for the incidence of these complications, 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. Adverse effects are poorly reported in recent studies investigating chiropractic manipulations. A 2016 systematic review concludes that the level of reporting is unsuitable and unacceptable. Reports of serious adverse events have occurred, resulting from spinal manipulation therapy of the lumbopelvic region. 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. Several case reports show temporal associations between interventions and potentially serious complications. The published medical literature contains reports of 26 deaths since 1934 following chiropractic manipulations and many more seem to remain unpublished.
Pain located in the neck is a common medical condition. Neck pain can come from a number of disorders and diseases and can involve any of the tissues in the neck. Examples of common conditions causing neck pain are degenerative disc disease, neck strain, neck injury such as in whiplash, a herniated disc, or a pinched nerve. Neck pain can come from common infections, such as virus infection of the throat, leading to lymph node (gland) swelling and neck pain. Neck pain can also come from rare infections, such as tuberculosis of the neck, infection of the spine bones in the neck (osteomyelitis and septic discitis), and meningitis (often accompanied by neck stiffness). Neck pain can also come from conditions directly affecting the muscles of the neck, such as fibromyalgia and polymyalgia rheumatica as well as from uncomfortable positioning of the neck while sleeping with the head on a pillow. Neck pain is also referred to as cervical pain.
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 most common cause of shoulder pain and neck pain is injury to the soft tissues, including the muscles, tendons, and ligaments within these structures. There is nearly double the risk for developing neck pain for people who spend most of their day sitting at work. Neck pain is twice as likely for those sitting in poor posture with the head in a flexed forward position.
D.D. Palmer opened the first chiropractic school two years later, and in the century since, chiropractic professionals have used spinal adjustments to help people prevent and cope with back pain, carpal tunnel, muscle strain, headaches and migraines, and a variety of other physical ailments. Millions of people benefit from the work of Dr. Palmer today.
Sharp neck pain is not in itself a red flag. Believe it or not there is no common worrisome cause of neck pain that is indicated by a sharp quality. In fact, oddly, sharp pains are actually a bit reassuring, despite how they feel. In isolation — with no other obvious problem — they usually indicate that you just have a temporary, minor source of irritation in the cervical spine. Serious causes of neck pain like infections, tumours, and spinal cord problems tend grind you down with throbbing pains, not “stab” you.
Chiropractors use hands-on spinal manipulation and other alternative treatments, the theory being that proper alignment of the body's musculoskeletal structure, particularly the spine, will enable the body to heal itself without surgery or medication. Manipulation is used to restore mobility to joints restricted by tissue injury caused by a traumatic event, such as falling, or repetitive stress, such as sitting without proper back support.