What a pain in the neck…

Neck pain is one of the most common conditions that we see in the office.  Discover three main causes of neck pain and our approach to treating it.

causes of neck pain

Neck pain is one of the most common conditions that we see in the office.  A study from 2022 estimates the prevalence of 27 out of 1000 people will experience neck pain at some point. Another study from Childs et al reported that at any given time, 10% – 20% of the population will report neck problems, with 54% of individuals having experienced neck pain within the last 6 months. And much like the declining health in the population of the United States, the prevalence of neck pain is only rising.  

What are the causes of neck pain? 

This is not a simple question to answer however neck pain can be broken down into three different categories –  traumatic, repetitive, and insidious.  

a man is sitting in a car after a car accident rubbbing his neck after a whiplash

Traumatic neck pain

The first category is traumatic. A great example of this is being rear-ended in a motor vehicle accident (whiplash). In this situation, the cervical spine goes through a period of forward translation followed by hyperextension causing sprain to the cervical spine ligaments and strain of the surrounding musculature. While this is not a primary focus of our chiropractic office, oftentimes existing patients will come in immediately following a motor vehicle accident to be assessed and treated for these conditions. 

Another common sports-related traumatic injury to the cervical spine is a blow to the head causing similar whiplash injuries as well as potential traumatic brain injury, also known as a concussion.

man working behind a computer with bad posture that causes neck pain

Repetitive neck pain

The second category of neck pain is repetitive. This can further be described as repetitive motion or repeated trauma. A simple example of this is somebody who works at a desk on the computer and it’s constantly keeping their head in a slightly flexed or extended position. This situation generally takes longer periods of time to develop pain and then we are dealing with more chronic conditions mostly with myofascial tightness and or muscular weaknesses.

woman woke up with sudden neck pain ion the morning

Insidious onset neck pain

The third category of neck pain are cases of insidious onset. Insidious means any disease that comes on slowly and does not have obvious symptoms at first.  An easy example is somebody who wakes up in the morning, maybe having slept on their stomach overnight, and feels a kink or tweak in their neck. This pain might be minimal at first but tends to gradually increase as the day goes on to the point where the patient has severe neck pain with associated limited range of motion. 

How to effectively treat neck pain

So what does all this mean to you the patient and how can we help? While these three different categories of neck pain seem to be quite different, they are in fact very similar. A thorough assessment and the evaluation of the cervical spine including range of motion, muscle strength, and a functional movement examination help to give our Smithtown neck pain chiropractors and sports medicine practitioners key diagnostic information as to what is truly causing your pain. Quite often we find muscle deficiencies or weaknesses that lead to instability which are the primary cause of the patient’s neck pain. In these cases, therapeutic exercises are often given, in the form of muscle activations or even compound strength exercises. 

Any further questions regarding neck pain? Feel free to reach out and ask one of us. 

Dr. Daniel Holland


Dr. Daniel Holland is an avid runner and recently completed the Shore 2 Shore Ultramarathon. He specializes in the diagnosis, treatment, and management of sports injuries, soft tissue injuries, as well as spinal rehabilitation. As a certified chiropractor near Smithtown and Nesconset, he is part of the True Sport Care team and enjoys collaborating with other practitioners in the healthcare field to help his patients reach their health and athletic performance goals.