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What Are The Symptoms of A Misaligned Neck?

A misaligned neck, also known as a cervical spine misalignment or subluxation, occurs when one or more of the vertebrae in the neck shift out of their proper position. This can put pressure on nerves, muscles, and other tissues, leading to a variety of symptoms. Here are some of the most common signs and symptoms of a misaligned neck:


One of the most frequent symptoms of a misaligned neck is headaches. When the vertebrae in the neck are out of alignment, it can cause irritation to the nerves and blood vessels that supply the head and brain. This frequently results in tension headaches or migraines. The headaches may be focused in the back of the head, forehead, or temples. Turning the head or neck movement tends to make the headaches worse.

Neck Pain

Misaligned vertebrae can directly pinch or irritate the nerves in the neck, causing localized neck pain. The pain may feel like a stiffness, soreness, or sharp, stabbing pain in the neck area. In some cases, the pain radiates out from the neck to the shoulders or upper back. Moving the neck often intensifies the pain.

Restricted Range of Motion

When the vertebrae are out of their normal position, it can limit mobility and range of motion in the neck. Attempting to turn or tilt the head may cause pain and stiffness. A misalignment can also cause muscle tightness or spasms in the neck, further restricting movement. The decreased range of motion is most noticeable when turning, looking up or down, or tilting the head to the side.

Radiating Pain

A misaligned neck frequently causes pain that radiates outward from the source of the problem. This radiating pain most often extends from the neck into one or both shoulders or arms. It may feel like a shooting, stabbing pain that travels down the shoulders and arms, or numbness and tingling in the hands and fingers. This occurs because the misalignment is putting pressure on nerves that extend from the neck to the extremities.

Popping or Grinding Sounds

Misalignments can cause the vertebrae to rub or grind against one another improperly. This results in loud popping, cracking, or grinding sounds when moving the neck. The noises occur when the bones are not aligned to move smoothly over one another. These sounds often accompany pain with neck movement.


The neck contains vertebral arteries that supply blood flow to the brain. When vertebrae are out of position, it can impinge these arteries and disrupt blood flow to the brain. This commonly results in dizziness, lightheadedness, and a feeling of imbalance. Changing head positions, such as looking up or down, often makes the dizziness momentarily worse.

Muscle Spasms

Misalignments cause imbalance in the muscles and connective tissues of the neck. This shows up as muscle spasms, tightness, and stiffness. There may be spasmodic tugging sensations when moving the neck. The muscles work harder to compensate for the imbalance, leading to fatigue, soreness, and spasms. These muscle spasms often accompany headaches.


Impinged nerves and reduced blood supply due to a misalignment may cause weakness in the arms or legs. The weakness may come and go. It often affects just one side of the body. Common symptoms are trouble lifting objects, dropping items, lack of coordination, and general fatigue in the limbs.

Changes in Sleep Patterns

Misalignments can affect nerve signals and blood flow to and from the brain, impacting sleep quality and leading to insomnia. Sleep disturbances include difficulty falling asleep, frequent nighttime waking, and not feeling rested in the morning. Some people also experience tingling arms or hands while sleeping.

Changes in Mood

Disrupted nerve signals and altered blood chemistry from a misaligned neck can affect hormone balance and neurotransmitter levels. This frequently manifests as mood changes, such as irritability, anxiety, sadness, brain fog, and difficulty concentrating. There may also be unexplained fatigue, lethargy, and lack of motivation.

In summary, some of the hallmark symptoms of a misaligned neck include headaches, neck pain, stiffness, reduced range of motion, radiating pain, grinding noises, dizziness, muscle tightness, weakness, sleep issues, and mood changes. Any of these symptoms can indicate a need to see a healthcare professional to assess and correct the misalignment. Left untreated, a misaligned neck can get progressively worse and lead to chronic pain and disability. A skilled chiropractor or physical therapist can perform adjustments and treatments to realign the cervical vertebrae, providing lasting relief.