Healthy Neck

Pain in the neck is more than a pain in the neck. It will damage your health. Here we explain what is healthy, what goes wrong, and how to fix it.

Anatomy of the neck

Your neck is a MARVEL of ENGINEERING. It has seven bones or vertebrae. The top two bones, called the ATLAS and AXIS, have a special relationship and sit in a critical location. The base of your brain, your BRAINSTEM, actually extends down into the top of your neck. The rest of the vertebrae have a soft disc between each one. The purpose of the discs is to leave space for the NERVES which exit at each level. Your neck is a remarkable structure, this is what you ask of it….

  • Hold the weight of my head; around 4-5kg!
  • Support the weight of my shoulders and arms. When I lift a weight, so does my neck.
  • Contain and protect the supply of blood, and CSF (the “irrigation”) to my brain.
  • Pass all of the important NERVES and their SIGNALS from my BRAIN to my BODY.
  • And still be able to move freely and look over both shoulders…!
  • It is no wonder that injuries to this area can affect ANY part of your health, and ruin your enjoyment of life.

Two Keys to a Healthy Neck

There are TWO KEYS to having a healthy neck, everything else follows:

Healthy Alignment

This is the most important, yet overlooked part of neck health. The alignment of your neck affects the probability of having pain and degeneration, and can affect much of your long-term health. Your neck should NOT BE STRAIGHT. It should have a deep, relaxed curve. This allows space for the spinal cord to relax without pressure, and for the fluid which irrigates your brain (CSF) to flow freely. Your head should also sit directly ABOVE your shoulders… tipping it forward just a little hugely increases the pressure on your neck and nerves, causing loss of curve, and long term problems.

Healthy Mobility

Your neck should turn all the way over both shoulders, tip to the sides, and look up at the ceiling WITHOUT PAIN OR RESTRICTION. The mobility needs to come from ALL levels of your neck. We often see patients who have certain areas which are heavily SUBLUXED. They don’t move well, they may be degenerated, and the nerves are under stress. But they have other areas which are HYPERmobile. They think their neck is fine, as they can look over both shoulders. But the SUBLUXATIONS cause major nerve stress, poorer health, and eventually spinal damage.

“Think about all that time staring down towards a mobile phone, and imagine how those thousands of hours will affect your neck curve, and ultimately your health.”

Two Types of Neck Damage

We mostly think of damage in terms of accidents- like car accidents or falls, and these are certainly important. However we all suffer far more trauma for something far less accidental…

Chronic Postural Trauma

For every 3cm your head moves forward, the pressure on your neck increases by over 5kg! So bent over your mobile phone, your neck now supports up to a 30kg weight! Now multiply this by the total hours you spend looking at screens per week, and you start to realise why we are seeing an epidemic of Deep neck problems.

The damage from this becomes permanent when your neck becomes subluxed, and although you return our head to an upright position, your neck stays subluxed. Over time the nervous stress robs you of your health. Eventually causing pain. It is no surprise that 1 in 3 office workers get neck and shoulder pain.


Even the smallest “whiplash” is a BIG DEAL! At only 8kph (fast walking speed), the forces on your neck can cause permanent damage. Think of falls playing sports, from the trampoline, or on the stairs through your life. The LONGER AGO it was, the BIGGER THE PROBLEM!

If you had a whiplash yesterday, your neck has not had time to scar or get into the bad habit of SUBLUXATION. It is relatively easy to stay well with the correct treatment. If it was 5, 10, 20 years ago, then that is a lot of scar tissue and HABIT to undo. It doesnt matter if it has been causing pain or not. In fact, some of the worst degeneration we see is when people have not had enough pain to act sooner!

More time = More scar = Bigger Problem = Slower to Heal Fully

Symptoms of an unhealthy neck

It would be easy to assume that neck problems cause… neck pain. But the problem is FAR bigger than that. The truth is that an unhealthy neck can cause such a wide range of symptoms and bad health. In many of these, it is not obvious that the neck is the CAUSE… Here are some of the problems caused by an unhealthy neck;


It is no surprise that headache sufferers worldwide turn to Chiropractors for help. The biggest headache category is called “Cervicogenic”… in Latin meaning “originating in the neck”. This condition is far more likely if you have a loss of curve in your neck. And yet for most people the only solution offered is regular use of pain-killers, with all of the long-term side effects. Some try massage or similar therapy, which usually helps by giving temporary relief. Many, many chronic headache sufferers have lasting, life-changing improvements when they start Chiropractic care.

Vertigo & Dizziness

Your upper neck is a key balance centre, and can even affect how your ears and balance centres work. It is very common to experience some degree of dizziness when your neck is unhealthy. Clinical research has shown that improving the deep neck posture (curve) can result in resolution of dizziness. In reality, dizziness is often accompanied by headaches, as symptoms of neck health issues.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

A huge percentage (30-75%) of people with Carpal Tunnel symptoms have a neck problem. In fact many do not even have any wrist problem! This is even more probable if you are experiencing symptoms BOTH sides. Sleeping in an awkward posture, compressing the nerves at the base of your neck will often cause compression of the nerves to your hands. It is essential to get a second opinion on the condition of your neck from a qualified Chiropractor before having any irreversible surgery or procedures done to your wrists.

Tennis Elbow, Golfer´s Elbow

Chronic elbow pains which feel, look and behave like tennis or golfers elbow may actually come from the neck, and are called “false” tennis, or “false” golfers’ elbow. Up to 70% of people with neck damage can have tennis elbow! In fact if it is BOTH sides… it is probably coming from your neck. 90% of people who have tennis elbow OVER 4 weeks duration will respond to Neck care! It just makes sense to check the neck first, as the healing of your arms depends on having a healthy neck. All people undergoing physiotherapy for tennis elbow should also have their necks checked by a qualified Chiropractor and corrected as needed.

Frozen Shoulder

90% of nerve compression in the neck will first show as a shoulder or arm pain. In fact there are many symptoms of the shoulder which originate in the neck. Over 80% of frozen shoulder (adhesive capsulitis) which does not have a clear trauma such as a fall as the cause is due to neck health problems. If your shoulder problem lasts more than 4 weeks, it makes sense to check your neck properly before undergoing any procedures, which may have not been necessary.

Spondylosis or Neck Degeneration

Masking a deeper neck problem with painkillers, or temporary relief from massage, may be “OK” short-term. But even if the pain goes away, the deeper injury has to scar. Deep tissue scars form around the ligaments and discs. The pain went away last year, but now your neck is quickly degenerating as calcium deposits into those scars. Your neck feels stiff, but that has become “normal”. And then those calcium deposits start to stick together, and bony peaks start to occur around the discs. This is called neck degeneration or Cervical Spondylosis. HOPEFULLY this causes you pain, and you seek treatment before it is too late. If you have no pain, you may not know it is happening. If you leave it too late, then the bones form “bridges” over the joint space… basically fusing together your neck.

Herniated Disc

As your neck is designed to hold 4-5kilogrammes, tipping it forward places extra stress on the discs. Sitting over a Laptop or Mobile Phone gradually fatigues and wears your discs. Even without a previous fall or car accident, the discs now start to bulge into that SMALL space where your spinal cord and nerves sit. What you FEEL depends on what part of the nerve it touches. You could get shooting pain, or you could start to get weaker into the hand. In some cases you may feel nothing. Herniated discs are more likely to happen when you have lost the healthy, deep neck curve which is essential for health. Recovering the healthy curve and mobility, and reducing the effective weight on your neck is critical to avoiding unnecessary degeneration, hernias, and even surgery.

“We are shocked to hear of people undergoing surgery for shoulder, elbow or wrist complaints, without having had proper assessment and correction of their neck. It makes sense to try correcting your neck first, as surgery is NEVER fully reversible.”

If you needed motivating to get Adjusted regularly, for LIFE, this is a strong one… Keep your neck healthy, mobile and YOUNG irrespective of any PAINs or symptoms.