Back Pain / Upper Neck

Most people take their necks and its easy flexibility for granted—until it becomes painful or even impossible to turn their head to the right or left. Did you know that the neck has very little muscular support yet it bears the weight of the cranium (14 to 16lbs!) for a lifetime? Picture this: a bowling ball placed atop a Popsicle stick supported only by a couple of rubber bands on either side. Clearly, the neck is extremely susceptible to injury, as it would not take much to topple such a precarious balancing act.

Nerve impulses travel back and forth from the brain via the spinal cord to various parts of the body location by means of the peripheral nervous system (PNS). The PNS is the elaborate structure of nerves that diverge from the spinal nerve roots. These nerves travel along the exterior of the spinal cord to the arms, fingers, legs, and internal organs throughout the human body. That said, if you are experiencing numbness, tingling, cold, aches, and/or a ‘pins and needles’ sensation in your arm, it could be indicative of a neck problem. As an aside, such symptoms are oftentimes confused with carpal tunnel syndrome, a painful condition that is common in typists, people who work at computers or execute other repetitive motion tasks for extended periods.

Neck problems can also be a factor in headaches, muscle spasms in the shoulders and upper back, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), otitis media (inflammation of the middle ear), temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ), limited range of motion and chronic tightness in the neck and upper back.

The Causes of Neck and Upper Back Pain

Most neck and upper back pain derives from a combination of factors, including injury, poor posture, subluxations, stress, and in some instances, bulging or herniated discs.


By far, the most common neck injury is whiplash, which is caused by a sudden jerking motion of the head; backward, forward, or sideways. Such movements can result in damage to the supporting muscles, ligaments and other connective tissues in the neck and upper back. Automobile accidents and sports injuries are frequent causes of whiplash, and the symptoms can take weeks and even months to present. Due to this prolonged lapse of time, many whiplash injuries go untreated as people assume that there is no injury. All too often, by the time medical assistance is sought, permanent damage has been done. Numerous studies have shown that years after whiplash insurance claims have been settled; nearly half of the victims report that they still suffer from their injuries. The rule of thumb is this: always see your chiropractor when you are involved in a traffic accident—no matter how minor your injuries may seem.

Poor Posture: Shoulders Back; Chin Up!

One of the most common causes of neck pain, and occasionally headaches, is poor posture. Even seemingly innocuous activities such as reading in bed, can ultimately lead to pain, headaches, and potentially serious health problems. So, keep your neck in a “neutral” position whenever possible. Refrain from sitting in one position and/or hunching forward for extended periods. If you must sit for an extended period, assume the optimal posture. On other words, hold your head in a neutral position, ensure your back is adequately supported, keep your knees slightly lower than your hips, and rest your arms often.


Subluxations in the neck and upper back area are quite common due to the amount of pressure involved in supporting the head, and the lack of stability in the cervical spine. Most subluxations manifest in the following four areas:

  • Where the Cervical Spine and the Skull Converge
  • Mid-Cervical Spine
  • Where the Cervical and Thoracic Spines Converge
  • Mid-Thoracic Spine

Signs of subluxation include involuntary head tilting, uneven shoulders, shirt sleeves are longer or shorter on one arm, or a necklace hanging askew. From a side view, it may appear that your head juts forward from your shoulders; a condition known as Forward Head Posture (FHP). Like carpal tunnel syndrome, FHP is common in people who bend over their computers all day long. Subluxations do not heal themselves and must be addressed swiftly in order to avoid further damage and intense, chronic pain.


Stressful situations cause involuntary muscle contraction—particularly affecting the muscles in the back. ‘Muscle guarding’ is a primordial, instinctive response designed to protect us from injury. Unlike our cave-swelling ancestors, physical danger does not confront us on a daily basis, but muscle guarding can still result from emotional stress. Most affected are the muscles of the neck, upper back and lower back, particularly the trapezius muscle, meaning the area from the base of the skull to the shoulder blades.

Deep breathing exercises and increased daily activity are the most effective ways to alleviate the aching and burning sensation of the trapezius muscle strain. Diminishing the physical effects of stress can significantly reduce tightness and pain in the upper back and neck.

Disc Herniation

Cervical spine discs can herniate or bulge, placing undo pressure on proximate spinal nerves. Although cervical discs do not herniate with the frequency of lumbar discs, it can happen, especially with whiplash injuries.

Treatment Using the DTS Spinal Decompression Therapy System

By gently reducing spinal disc pressure, this painless, non-invasive therapeutic treatment is the foremost non-surgical alternative for treating pinched nerves, sciatica, and damaged or degenerative discs. DTS is a gentle, non-surgical therapy, which can relieve lower back and lumbar pain as well as symptoms of bulging or degenerative disc disease. Generally, our DTS patients experience a significant pain reduction within just a few sessions. DTS Therapy gradually straightens the spine and alleviates disc, joint and muscular tissue pressure while augmenting the body’s natural healing process.

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