The neck is notorious as a site for aches and pains, which can occur at any age. There are numerous neck muscles that control the movement of the head, and the skull being a heavy object demands much effort on these muscles. The cervical spine is flexible and, more than any other part of the spinal column, undergoes a lot of movement.

The neck muscles are constantly under tension to pull the skull up, and anxiety and nervousness tighten them more. This makes the muscles more prone to being strained than others and aches and pains are therefore frequent. The constant movement within the cervical vertebrae leads to a tendency for arthritis to set in, more readily in older age.

The Eastern philosophies consider that several meridians travel through the neck muscles. The large and small intestine, bladder, gallbladder and triple heater all have acupuncture points along the surface of the neck muscles. Weakness in any of these organs or systems can lead to dysfunctional muscles and thereby problems. I find it fascinating that the triple heater, which may represent the adrenal gland and therefore represent stress, should pass through the neck and over the shoulders. I believe that this accounts for why we feel tension in these muscles and benefit so readily from a shoulder rub rather than other muscles such as the thigh, buttocks or lower back, which carry far more weight and should theoretically tire out much more easily.


For specific spinal problems, see the appropriate section.

Neck pains associated with any trauma, such as a road traffic accident or sport injury, must be seen by a doctor initially in case the spinal column is damaged.

Injury, especially whiplash, may be investigated by radiography . Avoid this unless injury to the spinal column is suspected or the problem is persisting.

Apply heat or ice, depending on which is most soothing and does not leave the neck in a worse state of spasm.

Spend as much time as possible in the neutral position; the head supported by two telephone directories and the knees raised so that the small of the back is flat on the floor .

Consider a neck brace if moving the neck is painful, although there is some debate whether neck braces should be used. Discuss this with your health professional.

Use the remedy Arnica 6 every 15min after the injury for three doses and then every 2hr for the next 24hr. Thereafter take Arnica 30 every 6hr until the discomfort is relieved. Massage in an Arnica-based cream three or four times a day and any gentle massage offered should have a downward motion.

Osteopaths, chiropractors, craniosacral therapists, Shiatsu practitioners and other masseurs who have experience in this field will all have techniques to resolve neck injuries.

Acupuncture may be instantly relieving. ‘ Neck problems with no obvious cause may be related to acupuncture meridians and a consultation with a complementary medical practitioner with expertise in this area may lead to a diagnosis of weakness within the large or small intestine, gallbladder, bladder, adrenal or thyroid glands.

Broken neck

The term ‘broken neck’ is a broad term that may indicate a crack within a vertebra or the severance of the spinal cord.

Any neck injury that has any neurological symptoms associated with it, such as numbness, tingling, loss of sensation, odd sensations or paralysis, must be reviewed by a doctor.

Immediately immobilize the neck .

Please refer to the relevant section depending upon the injury such as fracture, pain or paralysis.


Whiplash is a syndrome that includes headache, pain and tenderness of the neck and the supporting muscles of the head and neck. Whiplash is a hyper-flexion of the neck, usually caused by travelling in a vehicle that suddenly stops or is hit from behind or in front. The forward motion of the motor vehicle encourages the head to travel in that direction at that speed and any interference will cause the neck to flex. Most commonly, when hit from behind, the car seat pushes the body forward leaving the head behind, thereby creating a whip-like movement and injury. The damage is usually caused by a strain on the muscles holding the vertebrae together and the other neck muscles that tense in an attempt to protect movement. Trying to move the head against these cramped muscles causes pain as well as the strained vertebral muscles.

Other than the pain, neurological symptoms may be present if the spinal column was bruised in the incident. This may range from tingling and numbness through to partial or even total paralysis, which is usually transient.

Apply heat or ice, whichever feels more soothing, as soon as the injury has occurred.

Take the homeopathic remedy Arnica 6 every 15min for Ihr and then every 2hr for three days.

Radiographic investigation is advisable if pain is severe or neurological symptoms are marked.

Osteopathy and acupuncture should be administered as soon as possible.

Massage should also be considered.

There is some controversy about the use of a neck brace. At the moment the evidence is equivocal and I think that during the first three days a neck brace should be used and after that gentle movements should be encouraged. A neck brace at night is probably a good idea to prevent sudden and unexpected movements.

Any neurological injury that persists should be treated by reviewing the section on nerve injuries and inflammation