Chiropractic care is a nonsurgical treatment option that may help reduce your neck pain and related symptoms. Listed below are some of the different types of neck (cervical) conditions that Doctors of Chiropractic (DC) treat:
- Cervical intervertebral disc injuries that don’t require surgery
- Cervical sprain injuries
- Degenerative joint syndrome of the neck (eg, facet joints)
- Facet joint sprain
How Does a Chiropractor Diagnose Neck Pain?
Your chiropractor will evaluate your spine as a whole because other regions of the neck (cervical), mid back (thoracic) and low back (lumbar) may be affected as well. Along with treating the spine as a whole, chiropractors treat the “whole person,” not just your specific symptoms. He or she may educate you on nutrition, stress management, and lifestyle goals in addition to treating your neck pain.
Before deciding which approach to try for your pain, the chiropractor will do a thorough examination to diagnose the specific cause of your neck pain.
He or she will determine any areas of restricted movement and will look at how you walk as well as your overall posture and spinal alignment. Doing these things can help your chiropractor understand your body mechanics.
In addition to the physical exam, you’ll also go through your past medical history with the chiropractor, and he or she may order imaging tests (eg, an x-ray or MRI) to help him or her diagnose the exact cause of your neck pain.
All these steps in the diagnostic process will give your chiropractor more information about your neck pain, which will help your chiropractor create a treatment plan customized for you.
Your chiropractor will also rule out a neck pain condition that will require surgery—if he or she believes your neck pain would be better treated by surgery, then you’ll be referred to a spine surgeon.
Chiropractic Treatments for Neck Pain
Your chiropractor may use a combination of spinal manipulation, manual therapy, and other techniques as part of your treatment plan for neck pain.
Below are some spinal manipulation techniques your chiropractor may use.
- Flexion-distraction technique is a gentle, hands-on spinal manipulation that involves a pumping action on the intervertebral disc instead of direct force.
- Instrument-assisted manipulation uses a hand-held instrument to allow your chiropractor to apply force without thrusting into the spine.
- Specific spinal manipulation helps restore joint movement using a gentle thrusting technique.
Your chiropractor may also use manual therapies to treat your neck pain.
- Instrument-assisted soft tissue therapy uses special instruments to diagnose and treat muscle tension.
- Manual joint stretching and resistance techniques can help reduce neck pain and other symptoms.
- Therapeutic massage can help relax tense muscles.
- Trigger point therapy is used to relieve tight, painful points on a muscle.
Other therapies may also be used to ease neck pain symptoms.
- Inferential electrical stimulation uses a low frequency electrical current to stimulate neck muscles.
- Ultrasound sends sound waves into your muscle tissues to help stiffness and pain in your neck.
Therapeutic exercises may also be recommended—these can help improve overall range of motion in your neck and prevent neck pain from progressing.
The treatments listed above are simply examples of possible chiropractic treatments for neck pain; your actual treatment plan will depend on your diagnosis. Your chiropractor should thoroughly explain your treatment options so that you know what will happen.