Neck Pain


Acute neck pain is when the neck spasms, often for what seems like no reason. Neck pain that lasts for more than a couple of months and returns on regular basis is considered chronic neck pain. Often, no medical issue can be found which is causing the pain, though newer technology can identify problems due to soft tissue.

Neck pain has been around for centuries, likely since humankind started to walk upright. Indeed, Egyptians performed spinal therapy on themselves using hands and other parts of their body as levers. In modern society, around 80% of individuals will experience back pain during their lifetimes. Neck pain is not as common as back pain, but between the two, they account for millions of lost work hours and billions in lost earnings, to say nothing of the pain and unhappiness they cause. 

Causes of Neck Pain

Many times, the cause of neck pain is tough to identify, though in some cases, such as after a traumatic car accident, the cause is readily evident. While MRIs are often used when neck pain is reported, many times the scans show nothing out of the normal.

Prevention of Neck Pain

Neck pain can be prevented by not overtraining one’s body during athletic activity, as this may cause one’s body to be in a constant state of stress. This stress often leads to injury. Contact sports may also have to be avoided for persons who have suffered previous injuries from that type of sport. Finally, individuals partaking in athletic activity should be sure to stretch their neck before and after the workout.

Healthy eating is another way to prevent neck pain and injury. The correct amount of nutrition in the diet allows the body to prevent infection and build muscle, as well as aid muscle recovery. Additionally, persons suffering from injuries should increase their intake of protein by around 20 percent. A good diet is composed of 50 or 60 percent complex carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables, potatoes, pasta, and rice) and little or no sugar or other simple carbohydrates.

Symptoms of Neck Pain

Neck pain varies greatly as to its severity in individuals. Neck pain tends to make normal everyday tasks nearly impossible. Even if an individual is attempting to be careful, they must still hold their head upright, which requires neck muscles. Turning one’s head or any sudden movements can cause severe pain that may last for days.

How the Condition is Diagnosed

Individuals should see a doctor if they feel a burning, numbness, or tingling sensation in the arms, back, legs and they also feel pain in their neck. The pain should not be ignored until it gets too severe to handle. A doctor, seen when the pain is at its early stages, is most likely to be able to help an individual cope with the issue and prevent the individual from suffering from extraordinary pain.

Because neck pain occurs for different reasons in different individuals, diagnosis may be difficult. Often, an individual’s lifestyle contributes greatly to the pain. Doctors will usually inquire as to patterns of movement that may cause the neck pain. 

Neck Pain Possible Treatments

Conventional medicine usually recommends waiting for a long period of time and taking anti-inflammatories and muscle relaxants. Surgery may be required if an MRI finds a ruptured or protruding disc, though often neck surgeries are ineffective in the long term. Indeed, many believe that traditional doctors are too likely to recommend surgery, which may not be that helpful in the long run, when other courses of treatment may be more effective, though less conventional. Still, when dealing with traditional doctors, it is recommended to see a general practitioner or an internist, as they will be less likely to immediately recommend surgery and more likely to try and ascertain factors from a patient’s lifestyle that have contributed to the condition.

One option is to see a doctor called a physiatrist. Physiatrists are doctors dedicated to finding the cause of their patients’ pain, and are specialists in rehabilitation. A physiatrist dealing with a patient’s neck pain would examine the whole of the patient’s life to try and find the cause of the pain. Physiatrists do not prescribe drugs in treatment very often, instead opting to use other techniques such as hydrotherapy, ice, exercise, heat, and other bodily manipulation. Unfortunately, there are only around 2,000 physiatrists in the United States.

Alternatively, acupuncture is often high effective in treating neck pain. For acute neck pain, three to six acupuncture treatments will likely be necessary. However, for chronic neck pain or severe injuries like whiplash, up to twenty-five treatment sessions may be required to achieve the desired effect. For sufferers of whiplash, modern Japanese practitioners have developed a special acupuncture technique that is said to be highly effective. An added bonus of acupuncture is that it carries almost no risk of causing additional pain for the patient.

Another alternative treatment for neck pain is chiropractic spinal manipulation. While chiropractic treatment is more likely to exacerbate neck pain temporarily during a sever neck spasm, this usually does not last long. Three to six chiropractic sessions are usually needed to achieve the desired result if an individual is suffering from a neck spasm, while up to twenty-five sessions may be necessary for more serious issues like whiplash. Chiropractors also usually recommend a healthy diet, as the diet directly affects how quickly and how well the patient will likely be able to recover (clinical studies have shown that individuals who are malnourished will not respond well to chiropractic manipulation). Additionally, chiropractors will also often recommend exercise programs for their patients to help aid in recovery.

Massage is often effective at treating acute neck pain. Still, massage may temporarily make acute neck pain worse. Swedish massage may provide temporary relief as well, but does not have any sort of long-term rehabilitation program. Yoga has been shown that it may help neck pain, but it also runs the risk of making the pain worse, especially if the practitioner is inexperienced.

Finally, individuals should ensure that they have the correct amount of vitamins and minerals in their diet. Iron, zinc, and other antioxidants should be taken as they help the body to heal. B complex and C vitamins are also useful to help prevent further neck injury. Individuals should also take care to support their neck fully when driving or sitting in the same position for long periods of time.


  1. Bratman, S. The Alternative Medicine Ratings Guide: an expert panel rates the best treatments for over 80 conditions, Prima Health A Division of Prima Publishing (1998)
  2. Brown, L. Alternative Medicine, NTC/Contemporary Publishing (1999)
  3. Deepak Chopra, M.D. Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide, Celestial Arts (2002)
  4. Duke, J. The Green Pharmacy: Herbal remedies for common diseases and conditions from the world's foremost authority on healing herbs,Rodale Limited (2003)
  5. Nancy Allison. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Body-Mind Disciplines, The Rosen Publishing Group (1999)
  6. Servan-Schreiber, D. The Encyclopedia of New Medicine: Conventional & Alternative Medicine For All Ages, Rodale International Limited (2006)


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