The neck is probably the area of the spine most vulnerable to injury. This vulnerability results from a lack of support, a high level of flexibility, and the weight of the head. Unlike other areas of the spine, the neck is not connected to other parts of the skeleton. For example, the thoracic spine is connected to the ribcage and the lumbar spine to the pelvis. The neck is highly mobile due to its flexibility. An adult's head weighs about 12 pounds, which is a considerable amount of weight for the neck to support. Poor posture or body mechanics can cause pain and spasm in neck muscles just because the head weighs so much.
Injuries caused by trauma are one of the most common causes of neck pain, sometimes called cervicalgia or cervical radiculopathy. A diving accident, for example, compresses the skull down on the neck and can even break vertebrae (bones) in the spine. Falls and automobile accidents can result in whiplash injuries. When the head is constantly carried in a forward thrusting position, it stresses the neck muscles. As people get older, spinal degeneration and arthritis can occur, or bony overgrowth in the spine can press on nerves. The discs, which are spongy cushions of cartilage between the vertebra, can stick out into the spinal canal and cause pressure on the spinal cord.
Treatment of neck pain is always dictated by the source or cause of the pain. Even though the chiropractor can correct spinal alignment problems with an adjustment, other factors that are contributing to the problem must also be dealt with. Poor body mechanics, posture problems and lifestyle habits can all play a role in neck pain and must be considered in the treatment plan. Something as simple as the wrong pillow can undo a spinal adjustment. In developing a treatment plan, the chiropractor will conduct a thorough assessment of all potential causes and choose the therapies best suited to resolve the problem.