Manipulation of the cervical spine or neck region is a common technique utilized by doctors of chiropractic for many patients complaining of neck, upper back, and shoulder/arm pain, as well as headaches. Similar to the treatment for many conditions affecting the low back, chiropractic is considered as a first line of treatment for a range of cervical spine conditions.
The chiropractic treatment goals for cervical spine complaint management include (but are not limited to) some combination of:
- Reducing pain
- Improving motion
- Restoring function to the head and neck region
These goals are usually accomplished by the use of a number of different approaches. The primary focus of this article is on chiropractic manipulation.
Patients should be advised that the application of this treatment approach only occurs after a full patient history, physical examination, review of past, family, social histories, and review of systems have been completed. Tests resulting from this process may include X-ray, CT, MRI, EMG/NCV, laboratory blood and urine analysis, referral to a specialist, and/or possibly more, depending on each individual case presentation.
See Diagnostic Tests
Types of Chiropractic Manipulation
There are two general chiropractic manipulation approaches for cervical spine complaints:
- Cervical spinal manipulation - often thought of as the traditional chiropractic adjustment, or a high-velocity, low-amplitude (HVLA) technique
- Cervical spinal mobilization - which is a more gentle/less forceful adjustment, or a low-velocity, low-amplitude (LVLA) technique moving the joint through a tolerable range of motion.
The combination of the various approaches varies from patient to patient depending on the chiropractor's preferred techniques and preferences, the patient's comfort and preferences, and the patient's response to the treatment, as well as both past experience and observations made during the course of treatment.
Chiropractors may also use adjunctive therapy to treat cervical spine complaints. Typical adjunctive therapies may include massage, therapeutic heat and/or cold application, and gentle stretching and strengthening exercises, and more.
While this article focuses on chiropractic treatment, osteopathic physicians (or other appropriately trained healthcare practitioners) may also use these or similar types of manipulation and adjunctive therapy to treat cervical spine pain.