Neck Pain (Old)

Neck Pain Care: A Calgary, AB Chiropractor’s Perspective

A large number of our patients come to visit us with neck pain, often they’ve been experiencing it for a while.  As we see neck pain become more prevalent in society, it can be traced back to the ergonomics of people’s lifestyles and how inconsistent those are with the way our body was actually designed to function.  We are not built to sit at a desk.  As we sit at desks hour after hour day after day our heads want to fall forward, creating an anterior head carriage.  This is a real physics problem.  The load on the spinal structures, the muscles in the neck and upper back, the discs, and the tendons, all increase exponentially as the head moves forward from where it should ideally sit, in essence, this will often double or triple the effective weight of the head!  

There are a variety of structures that can contribute to neck pain.  Determining the specific cause is the best way to create the most effective care plan.  Neck pain could be caused by a disc injury, a misalignment in the vertebra, wear and tear to the spine, nerve irritation, and muscular dysfunction, all of which can generate pain in the process.  At Natural Way Chiropractic, we specialize in identifying and correcting these dysfunctions in the spine.  Often there are misalignments in the vertebrae that restrict motion, disrupt proper muscle function, and irritate the nervous system’s ability to function optimally.  We use chiropractic adjustments to restore proper range of motion, balance muscle strength, and relieve pressure on the nerves so they can operate freely.

The spine is a river of energy, it allows energy and messages to flow from the brain to the body and back again.  The loss of normal alignment or movement is essentially a dam to the flow of that river.  After some time we can experience that dam as a symptom of pain.  Pain is a signal from the body that something is happening that needs to be attended to.  Our society has trained us to put a piece of black tape over the check oil light in the car and ignore a symptom until it gets so bad we just can’t deal with it anymore.  We need to learn to speak to our body better and understand what it is trying to tell us. 

How We Care for Neck Pain in Calgary, AB

Comprehensive Consultation and Exam

When somebody comes to visit us with pain in their neck, the first visit will be scheduled as a discovery visit so we can understand the actual causes of their pain.  We’ve found that, in over 20 years of taking care of people, the most important component of their success in our office is during that visit.  We’ll conduct a thorough history and consultation, a chiropractic and physical examination, and any necessary orthopedic or neurological tests.  The goal of this visit is not only for us to understand the root cause of the problem but to also understand the patient’s goals.  Once we understand their goals and the state of their health, we can help them design a plan to restore their health to where they want it to be.  

Digital X-rays

If required, we use X-rays to analyze the biomechanics of the spine. We’ll look to see if there’s appropriate curvature in the spine and analyze the alignment of every joint in the neck.  This helps us know exactly where a patient may need to be adjusted and create a formula to correct them.  It also alerts us to any damage or degenerative change to their spine.  It shows us the exact location and helps us create a road map if the damage is correctable.  

Specific Chiropractic Care

The spine is like a suit of armor.  Its job is to protect the nerves.  Just as the skull protects the brain, the spinal cord is an extension of the brain that is protected by the bones of the spine.  Like any suit of armor, they’re vulnerable at the joints.  We’re exposed to different stresses which cause the spine to lose normal alignment and movement.  When this happens, it’s very irritating to the nerves that come out of the spine at every level to control the body.  Irritation and pressure on the nerves make muscles do things we don’t want them to do, like tense up or spasm.  As a result, we feel pain.

At Natural Way Chiropractic, we specialize in Upper Cervical Specific Chiropractic.  Using the Blair chiropractic technique, we can be extremely specific about understanding the alignment of each patient’s spine.  What is normal alignment for this patient?  How are they not like that?  How can we correct them, specific to their alignment, so they have restored function?  The Blair technique allows us to do this in a very gentle, specific, and effective way that doesn’t involve twisting, popping, or cracking.  

Massage Therapy and Soft Tissue Work

Our massage therapists help our patients support the corrective work that we’re doing by releasing chronically tight muscles which supports the restoration of the proper curves and alignment in the spine.  Massage also helps break up scar tissue that developed from long periods of uncorrected spinal problems.  When you have damage or injury to a muscle, the body attempts to heal it by laying down new tissue.  This tissue isn’t as well aligned as it was before it was injured and doesn’t work as well.  Massage helps break those adhesions down to improve patients’ musculoskeletal function.  

Spinal Decompression

Spinal discs are kind of like jelly doughnuts that cushion each vertebra.  They allow the spine to move properly and they hold the bones in the spine – the suit of armor – far enough apart that there’s room for the nerves to exit the spinal cord and innervate the body.  If people have chronic tension in their neck, degenerative change resulting in disc damage, herniated discs, or bulging discs, we will use spinal decompression therapy.  This is a traction system designed to unload the structures of the spine and give more room for the discs and nerves to operate.  By reducing pressure within the disc, disc bulges and herniations can heal more effectively.  

Custom Therapeutic Exercise Plans

Many people with chronic pain in their neck have lost function in a variety of neck muscles.  They’ve lost strength in the deep flexors of the neck that support a healthy cervical curve and are experiencing muscle tension in muscles that shouldn’t be tight.  Our athletic therapists work with patients to stretch the muscles in the back of the spine and strengthen the muscles in the front of the spine to stabilize the corrections that are made during a patient’s adjustments.  They will focus on the correct form to instill good habits in each patient.  This correction of, often long-standing, compensation and muscular dysfunction is critical for proper healing.  

Common Causes of Neck Pain in Calgary, AB


The term subluxation describes a clinical phenomenon that is multifactorial.  When you’ve lost normal alignment or movement, that means the muscles that move the vertebrae are doing something they shouldn’t be doing, they’re either too tight or too weak or a combination of the two.  If left uncorrected, this creates pressure and irritation on the nerves, it causes joints to become inflamed, and will eventually wear them out.  The end result of this damage is osteoarthritis which is the body’s effort to stabilize an area of the spine that’s under abnormal stress.  The body will produce bone spurs to help with this which in turn may irritate other structures in the spine like the discs and nerves.  Facet joint dysfunction, muscle strains, arthritis, and bone spurs may all be a component of subluxation and demonstrate how not addressing an issue immediately can snowball into something much more difficult to correct.  

Tech Neck

I’ve been in practice for 22 years and a 16-year-old kid today looks differently in their posture and structure than a 16-year-old kid did 20 years ago.  The average person spends 50+ hours a week on a device of some kind, whether it’s a TV, computer, or phone.  Due to the postural stresses that we are under from our devices, compounded by the duration that we spend on these devices, it’s not possible for our spine to sustain healthy function.  We have to work to mitigate the abnormal curvatures that this posture creates.  Our discs live in the front part of the spine and excessive forward head posture causes the discs to wear out and get thinner.  That creates irritation on the nerves, that creates subluxations, that makes holding healthy postures uncomfortable, and so we enter into a cycle of damage with accelerated wear and tear and degenerative change.  Tech neck is critical to catch early, especially in children, when the spine is still in a correctable place so that we can restore healthy habits, restore optimal strength to the spine, and relieve pressure on the nerves.  


Many people think of whiplash as only occurring after a car accident, but we see patients with whiplash who are figure skaters, gymnasts, and mountain climbers.  Anyone who has a significant injury where their head gets snapped forward and backward or side to side, like a car accident, or has lots of smaller versions of those injuries that accumulate over time.  Whiplash damages the ligaments and muscles that support the spine and lead to the loss of normal curvature in the neck.  Whiplash injuries also set the spine up to wear out more quickly than it otherwise would and you end up with chronic muscle problems, subluxation patterns, and nerve irritation.  Whiplash carries symptoms like dizziness, vision changes, and headaches, the type of things you would associate with getting hit in the head.  

Frequently Asked Questions

When should I see a chiropractor for neck pain?

Preferably, before you have it.  It’s a good idea to see a chiropractor at the first sign of discomfort in your neck, even if it starts to go away.  The body is highly adaptable, allowing you to continue functioning even with pain, but it’s important to know if there is some level of dysfunction occurring.  After all, pain is a warning sign that there is a problem.  We want to identify and correct that problem to alleviate pain and optimize function.  

Is it okay to pop my own neck?

It is generally not okay to pop your own neck.  Going through normal ranges of movement you may hear pops and cracks that are oftentimes benign if they’re pain-free.  That little extra manipulation you might do to your neck to make it pop is not advised.  What you end up doing is moving things in your spine that are already hypermobile, creating more problems.  

How should I sleep with neck pain?

Never on your stomach.  If you have neck pain the best way to sleep is on your back with a pillow that can support the natural curvature of your neck, without propping your head up too much.  Sleeping on your side is another option as long as you have a pillow that can keep your cervical spine in a good neutral position.

Why does my neck hurt on one side?

It’s actually quite common for your neck to be sore on one side and not the other.  When you’re subluxated (out of alignment), the muscles on one side may be forced to compensate and work harder than the muscles on the other side.  Muscles will contract and fatigue faster, irritating the nerves and causing pain as a result.  

How can I tell if my body is out of alignment?

It is very hard to tell if your neck is out of alignment all by yourself.  Sometimes the body signals pain to tell you your neck is out of alignment, but I’ve seen people whose necks are out of alignment for a long time before the body used pain to alert them.  This is why it’s a good idea to have your neck checked regularly by a professional, whether you have pain or not.  It’s like going to a dentist.  You don’t know you have a cavity until your teeth hurt, if they ever hurt.