Causes of Neck Pain

There can be many contributing factors to neck pain, such as:

  • Trauma
  • Overuse
  • Wear and Tear
  • Poor Posture

They can ultimately lead to pain due to injury of the structures of and surrounding the spine, such as muscles, joints, ligaments, tendons, discs blood vessles and nerves.


Injuries to the neck caused by a sudden movement of the head backwards and forwards or sideways, are referred to as “whiplash”. Whether from a car accident, sporting injury or an accident at work, whiplash or neck injuries warrant a thorough chiropractic examination.

Whiplash is a common injury sustained during an auto accident. This is typically termed a hyperextension and/or hyperflexion injury because the head is forced to move backward and/or forward rapidly beyond the neck’s normal range of motion. The unnatural and forceful movement affects the muscles and ligaments in the neck. Muscles react by tightening and contracting creating muscle fatigue resulting in pain and stiffness.

Overuse or Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI)

There is a constant process of breakdown and repair of the soft tissues in the human body. RSI develop when the balance is upset either from increased use and/or impaired healing. RSI is caused by mechanical irritation, which upsets the body’s highly tuned natural balance. It is an inflammation of the fibrous layer that covers soft tissues. Repetitive Strain Injuries occur from repeated physical movements doing damage to tendons, nerves, muscles, and other soft body tissues. Occupations ranging from meat packers to musicians have characteristic RSIs that can result from the typical tasks they perform. The rise of computer use and flat, light-touch keyboards that permit high speed typing have resulted in an epidemic of injuries of the hands, arms, and shoulders. Use of pointing devices like mice and trackballs are as much a cause. The thousands of repeated keystrokes and long periods of clutching and dragging with mice slowly accumulates damage to the body. Another name for the condition is Overuse Disorder. This can happen even more quickly as a result of typing technique and body positions that place unnecessary stress on the tendons and nerves in the hand, wrist, arms, and even the shoulders and neck. Lack of adequate rest and breaks and using excessive force almost guarantee trouble.

RSI may present as tightness, discomfort, stiffness or pain in the neck, arms or hands. You may experience tingling, coldness or numbness in the hands. There may also be an associated clumsiness, loss of hand strength and co-ordination.

We all have occasional aches and pains that go away within a few days, especially when we have overdone things. But if your symptoms are progressive, persistent or recurrent see your Chiropractor as soon as possible.

Wear and Tear

Wear and Tear, Osteoarthritis, Spinal stenosis or Joint Degeneration (Degenerative Joint disease (DJD)] occurs due to the accumulation of stresses and trauma over time.

Throughout life the spine is required to withstand considerable weight bearing strain, purely as a result of the pressures of daily living. The overall effects of degenerative changes of the spine, leads to a feeling of stiffness and reduced spinal mobility.

However, just like any other part of the body, the better care that is taken of the spine, the less degeneration is likely to occur.


By far the most common cause of neck pain relates to the effects of poor posture.  In order to understand the impact of poor posture, we must first consider why spinal alignment within the neck is so important.

Your head weighs about 5 kgs and in normal alignment it is very carefully balanced on top of your seven neck bones (vertebrae).  Your muscles work very hard to maintain this position and can easily withstand short periods of variation.  The problem arises when we assume awkward positions for prolonged periods, the fine balance is disturbed and the nerves, muscles, joints, ligaments and discs of your neck become strained and irritated.  In fact, the tension in your neck and shoulder muscles doubles for every 2-3 cm’s that your head is forward!!

Over time a poor sitting posture and incorrect work ergonomics can damage spinal structures and become the cause of recurrent episodes of pain. Chiropractors place great emphasis on giving both postural and ergonomic advice as part of the chiropractic treatment.

Once symptoms have arisen, the problem is usually fully established and a chiropractic treatment program including postural advice, manual treatment (chiropractic adjustments and soft tissue therapy) and rehabilitation exercises help to re-establish a flexible, strong and pain-free posture.

How can I get relief without drugs, injection or surgery?

Your doctor of chiropractic (chiropractor) looks at your overall health, focusing not only on your neck, but also on your lifestyle, such as diet and amount of daily exercise. This integrated approach helps determine the best treatment for your neck pain and aims to reduce pressure, restore movement and prevent recurrence.. To help identify the cause of your problem, you and your chiropractor will discuss your symptoms and previous injuries, your family health history, and your lifestyle, including recreational and work related physical activities.

Typically, your Chiropractor will recommend the following:

  • postural advice and how to avoid further strain
  • a series of spinal adjustments to restore proper movement to the neck joints
  • neck exercises to encourage improved movement
  • neck strengthening exercises
  • heat/ice therapy to help manage your neck pain
  • recommend a contoured pillow to provide correct support while sleeping

Spinal Adjustments

Your doctor of chiropractic is uniquely qualified to restore the health of your spine and neck. Special chiropractic techniques may relieve the pressure that is causing your neck pain. After locating the misaligned vertebrae in your neck, your chiropractor will use gentle pressure to adjust and mobilise the vertebrae to reduce the nerve pressure. The adjustments improve mobility, and relieve pain and stiffness.

Choosing the right pillow

A poor quality pillow can cause disturbed sleep and as sleep is very important to the body’s repair process, compromising the quality of your pillow can also affect your overall health and mental fitness.

It is important that you use a good quality and supportive pillow, which will hold your neck in alignment and which supports your head. (Your head weighs an average of 4 to 6 kilograms.) A good pillow will encourage your head and neck to remain in the correct position when you move around during sleep. In turn, this will relieve muscle tension around the neck, relax the shoulders and correctly position the head, arms, and lower back for relaxed sleep. Your pillow should offer most support to your neck. To achieve this we as chiropractors recommend that you buy an contour pillow.

Contour Pillows

There are both biomechanical and pain relieving benefits for you in using contour pillows. They are helpful in the treatment of pain by offering support and should be considered an important adjunct to chiropractic care in the treatment of acute and chronic neck complaints regardless of the cause.

The contour pillows are made from foam and they are shaped to provide support for your neck and head.

Regardless of why you think you have pain it is important to deal with it sooner rather than later. The longer you have a problem the harder it is to get rid of it. The early signs of having a problem might only present as a slight stiffness and tiredness in the shoulders. Having pain is not normal even though it is common.