Neck pain can have a negative effect on your daily life. It can affect your ability to work comfortably at your desk, and even affect your ability to drive a car safely.

Statistics show that neck pain is most common in urban areas, affecting people aged between 35-49 years of age.

Neck pain is not a diagnosis, is often a sign of an underlying condition, muscle imbalance or tissue injury.

Chiropractors treat the following conditions that could be responsible for causing neck pain.

Upper Crossed Syndrome

Wry Neck

Whiplash, Sprains & Strains

Cervical Radiculopathy

Brachial Plexus “Stingers”

Cervical Disk Herniation

Upper Crossed Syndrome

This is a common muscle imbalance in the upper body.

A muscle imbalance develops when the muscles in the front of the chest (pectorals) and the muscles at the in the neck, shoulders and base of the skull become overactive and tight due to lifestyle and occupational causes. This results in inhibition of the muscles in the front of the neck (deep cervical flexors) and between the shoulder blades (rhomboids, lower trapezius).

Upper crossed syndrome can be responsible for causing:

  • Neck pain & stiffness

  • Joint dysfunction at the base of the skull

  • Headaches

  • Pain between the shoulder blades

man working at a desk with neck pain
man working in an office with upper crossed syndrome


  • Poor workplace ergonomics

  • Occupations with hunched postures. Eg. Electricians, painters, production line workers, surgeons.

  • Sports such as cycling, hockey

  • Slouching while sitting

  • Driving

  • Using our smartphones

Treatment of upper crossed syndrome

Poor workstation ergonomics and spending hours a day in sedentary postures further re-enforces the postural pattern of tight and weak muscles. Ensuring that you have proper workstation ergonomics will help you maintain good posture while at work, and can slow the progression of this condition.

Hands-on treatment from a chiropractor will focus on stretching the overactive and tight muscle groups. Soft tissue therapy such as dry needling and cupping can also be beneficial for treating the muscles and fascia. Joint mobilisation & manipulation can be performed on areas of the spine that require better mobility.

Finally, exercises will be prescribed to strengthen the weak muscle groups, correct the postural dysfunction and provide long-lasting relief from neck pain. Click Here to see the exercises that chiropractors prescribe to help improve posture.

Wry Neck

A sudden movement such as looking over your shoulder to reverse out a parking space can cause a sudden, sharp pain in the neck and the inability to turn your head.

A wry neck may be caused by the entrapment of the synovial membrane within your spinal (facet) joints. The synovial membrane surrounds each facet joint in your spine and produces synovial fluid which reduces friction between the joint surfaces. A sudden movement can cause the membrane to get impinged inside the joint resulting in instant pain, muscle spasm and severely reduced neck range of motion.


  • Sharp localised neck pain

  • Postural compensations. Eg. Head and neck bent to one side

  • Headaches

  • Inability to turn your head without pain

  • Numbness, tingling or pain referral into the shoulder or arm is rare.


The first line of treatment is joint mobilisation and manipulation. This frees the synovial membrane and can restore normal joint motion. Patients usually notice an instant reduction in pain and improved joint range of motion after hands-on chiropractic treatment.

Some neck mobility restrictions may persist due to inflammation of the synovial membrane. It may take between 4-6 sessions to completely restore the range of motion in the neck. Dry needling, cupping, massage and stretching work well for decreasing muscle spasm.

Range of motion exercises and specific stretches will also be prescribed to help speed up your recovery.

Whiplash, Sprains & Strains

This kind of injury is most commonly associated with motor vehicle accidents, and contact sports.

They’re also known as an acceleration/deceleration injury. Whiplash is common in contact sports such as footie, rugby and soccer. The mechanism of injury is when the neck is suddenly extended when colliding with an opponent from the side or from behind. Whiplash can also occur when the head comes in contact with the ground after a tackle.


  • Neck pain that gets progressively worse over 24-48 hours

  • Headaches

  • Neck stiffness and loss of range of motion


It’s important to first rule out cervical spine fractures with X-rays or CT scans.

Once a fracture has been ruled out then hands-on treatment and muscle strengthening can be started your chiropractor. Gentle soft tissue therapy such as massage, stretching, dry needling and cupping can help reduce pain and improve mobility.

Ergonomic advice and range of motion exercises will also be prescribed. Neck strengthening exercises are a core component of rehabilitation from whiplash injuries.

Cervical Intervertebral Disk Pain

Neck pain caused by your cervical intervertebral disks is known as cervical discogenic pain. It is caused when there is irritation of the outer fibres of the intervertebral disks in your neck.

The function of the cervical intervertebral disk is to absorb and distribute shock and facilitate neck movements. Think of them as cushions between each vertebrae.

The outer fibres of the disk have nerve endings that transmit pain when there is structural damage or inflammation of the disk.


There are a number of traumatic & degenerative causes responsible for cervical discogenic pain.

  • Trauma from sports injuries, whiplash, motor vehicle injuries, direct blows to the head & neck

  • Overuse injuries. Repetitive microtrauma can lead to structural damage

  • Degenerative disk disease

  • Spondylosis


It’s important to identify activities or movements that aggravate your symptoms.

Conservative treatment can lead to successful treatment of discogenic pain. Early treatment will focus on reducing pain and inflammation. Gentle range of motion exercises, soft tissue therapy, activity modification and stabilisation exercises provide good longterm results and reduce the likelihood of your injury from reoccurring.

There are certain cases where MRI imaging or consultation with an orthopedic surgeon would be necessary. This will be discussed with you during your consultation with the chiropractor.

Cervical Radiculopathy

Cervical radiculopathy is characterised by numbness, tingling and or weakness of the shoulder arm or hand.

Symptoms start when the nerve root exiting the space between two vertebrae in your neck is compressed. Patients also describe a sharp, shooting or electric shock feeling running down their arm.

In the younger population, a herniated or bulging disk is usually responsible for compressing the nerve. In the older population, the nerve is more likely to be compressed by osteophytes (bony outgrowths due to degeneration of a joint) or decreased intervertebral disk height which causing narrowing of the space between two vertebrae.

physical labor and neck pain

Risk factors

Risk factors for cervical radiculopathy include:

  • Smoking

  • Manual labor

  • Degenerative disk disease

  • History of traumatic neck injuries

  • Repetitive microtrauma


The first goal of treatment is to reduce neurological pain, weakness or pins & needles into the arms and hands.

The term used by chiropractors treating cervical radiculopathy is “centralisation” of symptoms. This is a sign that there is less compression and inflammation of the affected nerves.

Hands-on manual therapy, cervical traction and pain-free exercises are prescribed early in treatment. Soft tissue techniques such as dry needling, cupping and dynamic taping can be used to treat painful muscles. A home rehabilitation program will be prescribed consisting of gentle stretches, neck retractions and stabilisation exercises.

It’s important to remember that intervertebral disks can heal without surgery. An accurate diagnosis, specific treatment plan and patient compliance is necessary for best results. Disks can take from 4 weeks up to 6 months or longer to heal.

If you fail to respond to a course of chiropractic treatment, a referral for an MRI or orthopedic consult may be necessary.

Brachial Plexus “Stingers”

This kind of injury is common in contacts sports such as rugby and footy.

The brachial plexus is a network of nerves that run from your neck, down your arms to your hands. Trauma to the neck causes stretching or compression of this group of nerves. Stingers often occur when making a tackle, a players shoulder is depressed in contact and their neck is bent towards the opposite shoulder.

brachial plexus stinger location of pain


Symptoms can last for a few minutes up to a few days depending on the severity of the injury.

Patient’s will experience the following arm symptoms:

  • Burning

  • Weakness

  • Pins and needles


Injured nerves need time to heal. Treatment won’t speed up the recovery of the arm symptoms, but there might be a whiplash, sprain or strain injury of the neck that occurred with the stinger and that responds well to hands-on chiropractic treatment and rehabilitation. Early diagnosis and education about the condition is key to a successful recovery.