Neck Pain

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Latest Edit: Hector 2013-05-29 (EDT)

Neck pain is a very common musculoskeletal complaint. It refers to pain in any structure of the neck including the muscles, vertebrae or nerves. Most individuals will have neck pain at some time during their life. For others, neck pain can be chronic and debilitating.

Neck Pain
Neck pain.jpg

Neck Pain
Causes Posture, Stress, Injuries
See Also Musculoskeletal Conditions
Books Books on Muscle, Joint and Bone Conditions
Articles Articles on Musculoskeletal Conditions

Naturopathic Assessment

Causal Factors

Neck pain is typically the result of chronic muscle tension, injury or chronic postural misalignment. Some of the factors that need to be considered include.


  • Postural misalignment increases a person's susceptibility to neck pain and is the cause or a contributing factor in many cases of chronic pain.
  • Poor posture, especially of the upper body, can result in chronic muscle strain and tension which is a primary cause of neck pain.
  • Poor posture while reading, watching television, working on the computer or any other activity that results in misalignment of the head and neck for long periods of time can result in neck pain.
  • Poor sleeping posture, such as sleeping with a arm over one's head can cause neck and shoulder pain.
  • Improper posture while exercising, or exercising too vigorously can cause neck pain in some individuals.
  • Excessive twisting and turning the neck in a jarring manner while exercising can trigger pain.


  • Injury
  • Injury to the neck, shoulders or head can result in inflammation and neck pain. Traumatic accidents or falls can cause sever neck injuries that need immediate medical attention.
  • Accidents, falls or sports injuries often trigger pain.
  • Activities
  • Talking on the phone, especially when the head is tilted to one side, for long periods of time is a common contributing factor.
  • Reading, computer work or other activities that result in forward head posture can cause neck pain, especially if the position is held for a long period of time without moving around or changing positions.
  • Ergonomics
  • A computer monitor that is too high or too low, or poor ergonomic design of a workstation can contribute to neck pain.


  • Many people carry their stress in their shoulders (carrying the weight of the world on their shoulder). When stress is carried in the shoulders or upper body it results in muscle tension, strain and neck pain.


  • Infections
  • Some infections are associated with neck pain.

Diagnostic Testing

The diagnosis of neck pain is typically based on a person's subjective symptoms and a proper musculoskeletal exam. Other diagnostic testing that may be recommended include:

  • Lab Tests to assess for inflammation such as CBC, ESR and C-Reactive Protein (CRP)
  • Other diagnostic testing including X-rays, CT scan, MRI or myelogram (an x-ray or CT scan of the spine after dye has been injected into the spinal column) especially if the neck pain does not resolve with rest and standard treatment.

Associated Conditions

Inflammatory conditions such as

Lymph Node conditions include:

  • Lymphadenitis or inflammation of lymph nodes
  • Tuberculosis
  • Hodgkin's Disease

Nerve conditions include:

  • Compression of nerves
  • Contusions or lacerations of nerves
  • Displacement of the cervical rib

Cervical Spine conditions include:

Skin conditions include:

  • Herpes Zoster (Shingles)
  • Cellulitis
  • Injuries such as contusions and lacerations
  • Carbuncles

Muscle and Fascia conditions include:

Other Conditions include:


Neck pain may present in a variety of ways:

  • sharp or dull
  • constant or intermittent
  • shallow or deep
  • mild to severe.

It can cause mild discomfort or it can prevent a person from moving their head from side-to-side. It may also radiate (move) to other parts of the body such as the head, shoulders or upper back. Neck pain can also be linked to back pain.

Naturopathic Treatment

The goal of naturopathic treatment is to support and work in tandem with the healing power of the body and to address the causal factors of disease with individual treatment strategies. The goal of naturopathic treatment is to provide relief from the neck pain, to address the underlying causes and in the cases of chronic or relapsing back pain to identify and address the factors that are contributing the increased susceptibility.

It is always advisable to work with a naturopathic doctor before engaging in any treatment plan.

Home Care

Home Care strategies include:

  • If the neck pain was caused by an injury that ice for the first 24 to 48 hours can assist in decreasing any underlying inflammation. After that heat is typically more beneficial.
  • If the neck pain is due more to strain or tension, heat is typically more beneficial. The heat may be applied through hot compresses, a heating pad or during a hot shower with water focused on the area or concern.
  • When neck pain is acute it is best to rest until symptoms subside. This includes stopping normal physical activity for the first few days.
  • Slow range-of-motion neck exercises are helpful to gently release the tension in the neck muscles. Slowly rotate the neck from side-to-side, and bend to right and left. It is typically ok to move the head up and down, but avoid any hyper-extension as this may aggravate the problem.
  • Avoid any heavy lifting or twisting of the back or neck.
  • Avoid the following exercise if you have neck pain, unless advised by your naturopathic doctor or other trained medical professional:
Contact sports such as football or soccer
Weight lifting
Leg lifts when lying on your stomach
Sit-ups with straight legs (rather than bent knees)
  • It is important to get adequate sleep, but it is also important to ensure that you mattress and pillow are not part of the problem. A firm mattress and a pillow that ensures proper alignment of the neck are typically the best.


Lifestyle recommendations include:

  • Foods in the nightshade family, i.e., tomato, potato, peppers, eggplant and tobacco, contain solanine which causes joint pain and inflammation in people who are sensitive to this.[1], [2]
  • Ensure you drink adequate water. Water is essential for the maintenance of muscle, joint and inter-vertebral disc health as well as the shock absorbing ability of the intervertebral discs.[2]
  • Address any postural alignment concerns of the neck of upper body.

Naturopathic Therapies

Naturopathic Therapies for back pain include:

  • Acupuncture has been shown to decrease pain and improve functioning in people with acute or chronic neck pain.
  • Massage and Spinal manipulation are effective for relieving neck pain, especially when combined with other treatments.


Reviewed by Iva Lloyd, BScH, RPE, ND [1]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Rothfeld Glenn S, Levert Suzanne (1996) Natural Medicine for Back Pain, the Best Alternative Methods for Banishing Backache Rodale Press.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Ivker Robert (2003) Backache Survival, the Holistic Medical Treatment Program for Low Back Pain, Jeremy Tarcher/Putnam.
  3. Dagenais Simon, Haldeman Scott (2011) Evidenced-Based management of low back pain Elsevier.
  4. Hershoff Asa 2000 Homeopathic Remedies, A Quick and Easy Guide to Common Disorders and their Homeopathic Treatments, Avery Publishing Group, New York
  5. Ullman Robert, Reichenberg-Ullman Judyth 1997, Homeopathic Self-Care, the quick and easy guide for the whole family. Prima Publishing