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Neck Pain

Why It Happens, And What You Can Do About It

woman on couch with neck painMaybe you did it lifting weights, or a pet, or grandchild. Maybe you slept funny. Maybe you spent too long looking up, or driving. Maybe you were in an accident. Maybe you don’t know WHAT you did! But now you have neck pain, and it hurts. What causes neck pain? What can you do about it?

At Performance Chiropractic, we’ve been helping patients overcome neck pain since 1979 – and we’ve experienced it ourselves, so we’re especially attuned to how frustrating this condition can be. Fortunately, we can help.


The skull weighs roughly 5-10 pounds. It’s supported by your neck, which is made up of seven cervical vertebrae (neck bones) numbered C1 (the atlas bone at the top) to C7 at the base (the one that typically feels like a bony “bump”). There is a shock-absorbing intervertebral disc between C2, C3, and all vertebrae below. Ligaments connect and stabilize the bones, and a variety of muscles allow controlled movement, stabilization, and assist in special awareness. The spinal cord is the main bundle of nerves from the brain, and it passes through a canal of bony “armor” at the back of each cervical vertebra on its way down the spine. Nerve roots come off the cervical spinal vertebrae to divide into trunks, divisions, cords, and branches that control movement and feeling in the arms and shoulders.


Neck injury is typically the result of macrotrauma or microtrauma. Macrotrauma are significant events like slips, falls, vehicle crashes, impact sports injuries, even standing up into an overhead object. Microtrauma is accumulated stress of day-in, day-out habit and stresses like poor posture, repetitive motions that cause stress/inflammation/overload, and gravity. Both can cause joint dysfunction. Joint dysfunction occurs when cervical vertebrae move poorly due to injury, pain avoidance, arthritic degeneration, and bad habits (hello, all you slouchers and stomach sleepers out there!). Some Doctors of Chiropractic (D.C.) will refer to joint “fixation” – literally stuck joints. We’ll return to this concept later in this article.


Dr. Shaye may use imaging such as X-ray or MRI to document arthritic changes (the human version of rust) in cervical vertebrae, as well as to document the condition of nerve roots, the discs, and related tissues. Range of motion, strength, sensation, and reflexes can also give you and your doctor important information about what tissues aren’t functioning well, and what to do about it. Dr. Shaye also evaluates joint movement and function with techniques like motion palpation, a system of evaluating “joint play” as normal (springy, resilient, healthy) vs. fixated (stuck, restricted, sub-optimal). Joints that do not move correctly can often be “trained” to move correctly through a series of chiropractic adjustments.


Dale Carnegie once said, “The best way to win an argument is to avoid it.” Similarly, the best way to fix neck pain is to avoid it in the first place. When you find yourself staring at a screen or chained to a keyboard, take periodic “micro-breaks” to allow your joints to move through a healthy range. Be sure your posture isn’t habitually slouched or stressful (we’re referring to a field known as ergonomics, which OSHA simply defines as “fitting a job to a person”). Sleep in postures that minimize neck stress, and avoid stomach sleeping if you can. Wear and properly fit safety equipment in collision sports. Be sure your car’s headrest isn’t too far behind your head when driving, to limit or avoid whiplash in a rear-end collision.

Professional Care for Neck Pain

Doctors of Chiropractic are well-known for their skills in diagnosing, treating, managing, and preventing low back pain; but they are at least as skilled at helping neck pain sufferers. At Performance Chiropractic we first diagnose the cause, then design the appropriate treatment plan which may include chiropractic adjustments, acupuncture, dry needling, soft tissue manipulation, and home-based therapeutic exercises. For acute neck pain, ice is typically preferable to heat since we wish to cool excessive inflammation rather than increase it. Anti-inflammatory diets can also be helpful.

Book an Appointment

To learn more about overcoming neck pain, contact us. Our team is ready to assist you on your journey towards a better life, without neck pain.


Neck Pain Williamsburg, James City County VA | (757) 229-4161