Do Chiropractors Help With Neck Pain?

Neck pain is an extremely common issue, with around 15% of adults experiencing it during any given 3-month period. The neck contains delicate structures including muscles, joints, nerves, and discs that can be injured or become painful for various reasons. Many people turn to chiropractors for help with neck pain, but does chiropractic treatment really work?

What Causes Neck Pain?

Neck pain can arise from injuries such as whiplash from car accidents, sports injuries, or slips and falls. It can also develop gradually from poor posture, repetitive motions, or simply the aging process. Some underlying medical conditions like arthritis, herniated discs, bone spurs, or pinched nerves may also cause neck discomfort. In many cases, the specific cause is difficult to pinpoint. Activities that strain the neck like bending over desks for long hours, constantly looking down at phones and devices, or sleeping in awkward positions often contribute.

How Can Chiropractors Help?

Chiropractors use hands-on spinal manipulation and alignment techniques to treat neck pain and improve range of motion. They can employ various adjustments and manual therapies to target areas of stiffness or misalignment in the spine that may be contributing to pain or restricted mobility. Some of the specific techniques a chiropractor may use include:

  • Spinal mobilization – Gentle, oscillating pressure applied to the vertebrae and surrounding tissues to restore mobility.
  • Cervical traction – A stretching device to separate vertebrae and relieve pressure on discs and nerve roots.
  • Manual adjustments – High-velocity, low-amplitude thrusts to bring joints into proper position. Usually produces an audible “pop.”
  • Massage – Soft tissue massage to loosen tight neck muscles that may be causing discomfort.
  • Postural advice – Tips for improving posture to prevent neck strain. Recommendations for ergonomic modifications.
  • Exercises – Targeted stretches and exercises to strengthen the neck, prevent future injury, and improve range of motion.

Chiropractors take imaging tests like x-rays or MRI scans to gain further insight into joint and soft tissue damage that may be causing symptoms. By addressing areas of spinal misalignment or dysfunction, chiropractic treatment aims to eliminate pain and restore normal neck function.

What Does The Research Say?

Multiple scientific studies have found chiropractic adjustment effective for relieving acute and chronic neck pain. A 2018 study published in Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation looked at 183 patients with neck pain. Over 75% had improvement in pain and disability scores after 12 weeks of chiropractic care using spinal manipulation, soft tissue massage, and exercise.

A critical review published in Annals of Internal Medicine evaluated 51 trials and concluded that spinal manipulation can significantly reduce neck pain intensity and associated disability in the short and long-term. Massage was also found helpful to a lesser extent.

While more research is still needed, current evidence suggests chiropractic treatment provides moderate benefits for neck pain sufferers. It appears most effective when combined with therapies like massage, exercise, and lifestyle modifications. For many patients, seeing a chiropractor helps resolve neck pain without the risks of pain medication or surgery. As with any treatment, individual response can vary. But overall, the consensus is that chiropractic care does offer an effective option for managing common neck pain.