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  • Dr. Mark Freund

Common Causes of Neck Misalignment

causes of neck misalignment

Are you tormented by a nagging pain in your neck? If so, your neck pain may be caused by misalignment in the upper cervical region. Neck pain is quite common. In fact, 70% of people will experience it at some point in their life.

It's important to understand the neck misalignment causes and symptoms, so you can quickly be aware of the problem and seek upper cervical chiropractic care. Fortunately, many treatment options provide neck pain relief, such as an upper cervical adjustment, physical therapy, and even acupuncture.

What Causes Neck Misalignment?

Whether it's sitting at the office all day looking down at your phone frequently, there are many reasons for neck misalignment. Let's dive into the common causes:

Traffic accidents are often associated with throwing the head forward, then back (and vice versa). Lateral hyperextension may also occur. In fact, atlas dislocation and whiplash can occur in slow collisions even at speeds of 5 miles per hour. Many of these injuries remain undiagnosed.

And even when whiplash is found, it is usually dismissed as "healed" after the swelling subsides and the range of motion is restored. However, if displacement has occurred, more attention is required to return the vertebrae to their neutral, natural position. Although ice, bed rest, and time will reduce swelling, none of them align the vertebrae into the pre-injury position. In these cases, long-term recovery of neurological function and complete painless recovery require specialized care for the upper cervical region.

Poor posture

examining posture for neck misalignment

The entire weight of the head, about 10-12 pounds, is on the top of the atlas. Think about what your atlas puts up with when you're trying to balance a bowling ball on a broomstick.

A 60-degree forward head position increases the neck load by up to 60 pounds. Bending your neck forward all day long, whether you're sitting at your desk or using your mobile device, puts a huge strain on your vertebrae. The cumulative effect of these positions leading to displacement is increased, but it can be treated and reversed with proper care.

Contact sports often lead to concussions. Because the atlas balances the head from the base of the skull, any type of head injury has a high chance of displacing the upper cervical spine. In addition to contact sports that regularly result in spinal injuries, there are many sports such as horseback riding, skiing, boarding, etc.

Stress and toxins

Stress leads to tension in the neck muscles. Toxins are a form of physiological stress and therefore contribute to the accumulation of stress in the body. Due to polluted air, altered food, chemical farming practices, unclean water, and drug use, toxins are difficult to avoid. Stressful thoughts, toxic overload, and attempts at self-regulation can cause spinal misalignment.


Even under normal circumstances, the birth process is often the first cause of spinal tension during labor. When the baby's head appears, the doctor often grabs the baby's head and rotates it around the figure-eight motion up to get the lower shoulder and then down to the upper shoulder. This places immense stress on the infant's spine. It is estimated that 60-90 pounds of pressure are used in normal births. Babies and children's backs are very gentle and can easily experience misalignment.

Slips and falls during early childhood

Children fall thousands of times while learning to walk. Babies fall and hit their heads when they play and learn to walk. These early inconsistencies accumulate in the body throughout life.

The examination of your children by a chiropractor of the upper cervix is ​​critical for optimal growth and development. Protecting the brain-body connection in infants through chiropractic may be one of the most important steps we can take in modern medicine.

Subtle movements

Similar to poor posture, subtle movements performed repeatedly can cause neck misalignment. These include the following:

  • Eating tough or hard foods

  • Nail-biting

  • Gum chewing

  • Grinding teeth

  • Cleaning teeth

  • Holding a phone between the shoulder and head

Neck Misalignment Symptoms

Since the C1 (atlas) and C2 (axial) vertebrae serve to protect the spinal cord and facilitate head movement, their displacement can lead to many neck misalignment symptoms.

neck misalignment symptoms

You may or may not have the immediate consequences of shifting the top of your cervix. While some people notice pain or discomfort immediately after a second injury or injury, others do not realize that their neck has been misaligned for decades. Since the upper cervical spine is located near the brainstem, misalignment of the neck can lead to a range of minor to major problems.

Considering that upper cervical disease occurs at the junction of the skull and spine, it is not surprising that neck pain and headaches in the back of the head are the most common symptoms. People with craniocervical disease often experience neck pain and headaches at the same time, and both symptoms get worse with head and neck movement. A cough, for example, can cause a burst of pain. Neck pain can also radiate to the arms if the spinal nerves are compressed.

The most commonly reported symptoms are numbness, tingling, pain, stiffness, and weakness in and around the neck. If left displaced, numerous problems could occur, such as headaches, migraines, sinus problems, dizziness, seizures, TMJ, fatigue, vision problems, hearing problems, immune system problems, chronic diseases, and more. Neurological problems, fibromyalgia, multiple sclerosis, trigeminal neuralgia, and more can result from prolonged spinal cord compression.

Some of the more complex cases of upper cervical vertebrae involve compression of the spinal cord. Whenever the spinal cord is compressed, nerve problems can occur that make it difficult to function and perform normal activities.

Neck Misalignment Treatments

Although there are many traditional treatment options, such as applying ice or heat and taking over-the-counter medicine, they largely don't address the root cause of the neck misalignment. We'll cover a few alternative treatment options for neck pain relief.

Physical Therapy

physical therapy treatment for neck misalignment

Strengthening and stretching the neck, shoulders, and upper back muscles can speed up recovery from a painful neck condition and possibly reduce flare-ups, although there is no evidence for this. Many practitioners recommend patients see a physical therapist for guided therapeutic exercises. Therapy usually consists of isometric exercises and mobility exercises.

In an isometric exercise, you contract your neck muscles against an opposing force, such as your own arm, against which you "push" your neck muscles. Range of motion stretching aims to relax and stretch the neck muscles gradually.

A physical therapist may recommend other treatments that can provide relief and comfort for some people. One option is ultrasound treatment of inflamed tissue with high-frequency sound waves. A physical therapist can perform it with the hands or special equipment to stretch the neck muscles gently. You can also get a prescription neck traction device at home, but carefully follow your therapist's instructions.

A chiropractor, osteopath, or other medical practitioners may use their hands to adjust the position of the spine, which increases the range of motion and reduce pain. Spinal manipulation involves high-speed manipulations, while spinal mobilization includes techniques that are more limited in their range of motion. Before performing high-speed manipulation on the neck, it is important to rule out any spinal instability or underlying disease to reduce the risk of rare but serious complications such as stroke.


Massage can relieve muscle tension and spasms, reduce pain and promote relaxation. Some people may prefer self-massage or a massage from a willing friend or partner, while others may feel more relieved when the massage is performed by a trained professional.


Practicing mindfulness and meditation can help relax the body, reduce pain, or give a feeling of greater pain control. There are many meditation forms, such as controlled breathing exercises and distraction techniques.


A certified acupuncturist places thin needles at certain points in the body, depending on the type of pain and suspected cause. In the treatment of neck pain, needles may be placed in the neck or other parts of the body to release stagnant energy (qi), which may promote healing.

Exercises to Help Correct Neck Alignment

Fortunately, some exercises can help relieve neck pain and help increase the range of motion. Make sure to warm up your neck before performing these exercises. You can gently roll your neck clockwise and counterclockwise for a minute. Warming up helps relax the stiff or sore neck muscles, making it easier to perform the exercises.

Cervical flexion stretch

  • Sit on a chair with a backrest and maintain an upright posture

  • Slowly shift your head so that your chin touches your chest. Hold for 15 seconds.

  • Next, tilt your head back. Be careful not to strain your neck.

  • Return your head to the original position.

  • Then repeat the exercise ten times, making sure your movement is smooth and constant.

Front neck stretch

neck exercises for neck pain
  • Keep your posture upright, including a straight back and neck.

  • Turn your head slowly, then turn your face toward the ceiling so that your chin protrudes about 45 degrees.

  • Place your left hand and put it over your right ear. Gently pull your head toward your left shoulder, keeping your chin out.

  • Hold this position for 30 seconds. Repeat with the opposite side.

Shoulder blade squeezes

  • Begin by sitting with your back straight, your neck elevated, and your knees bent 90 degrees.

  • Keep your shoulders relaxed and release any tension that may be causing them to rise to your ears.

  • Bring your relaxed arms to your sides.

  • Pull your shoulders back to ensure the shoulder blades are together and hold the stretch for five seconds.

  • Relax your shoulders and repeat the stretch ten times.

Increase the stretch hold time from 5 seconds to 10 seconds and move on to doing two and then three sets a day for a set period.

Cervical lateral flexion stretch

  • Keeping your chin parallel to the floor, turn your head as far to the right as possible so you can see your right shoulder.

  • As you turn your head, look into your field of vision and keep your abdominal muscles still. Keep your torso and back straight.

  • With your head back as far as possible, hold this position for up to 15 seconds.

  • Then relax and return your head to an upright position.

  • Repeat the exercise 10 times to the right. Rest for a minute, then turn your head to the left and repeat.

Chin tuck in supine position

This is another great exercise for correcting the wrong position of the neck.

  • Lie on your back without support under your head.

  • Pretend to nod, tucking your chin in toward your chest but keeping your head on the floor.

  • Hold the stretch for five seconds. Repeat the stretch five to ten times.

Arm swing-up

This exercise helps to correct the posture of the neck by strengthening the muscles in the back of the neck.

  • Stand straight, feet shoulder-width apart, hands relaxed on hips.

  • Pull your head back so that your neck is level with your spine and your chin is parallel to the floor.

  • Stretch your arms forward and, keeping them straight, bring your palms together and raise your arms above your head. Keep your shoulders as far back as possible while keeping your neck straight.

  • Hold this position for 10 seconds.

  • Lower your arms forward with your palms together and repeat the exercise 10 times.

How Upper Cervical Adjustments Work

An upper cervical neck adjustment is a precise and safe procedure designed to relieve tension in the neck muscles, treat headaches, and realign the upper spine. In general, neck correction and chiropractic correction can be a great alternative to surgery and medication for some patients who need a less invasive approach.

Upper cervical care is vital, especially if you are experiencing conditions such as chronic neck pain, shoulder pain, chronic headache, migraine, Meniere's disease, post-concussion syndrome, balance problems, or any other health and neurological problems that have been shown to be treated with neck correction. Upper cervical chiropractors use instruments to adjust the neck more safely and accurately than conventional chiropractors. These tool-assisted adjustments are painless and comfortable.

explaining upper cervical misalignment treatment

Upper cervical chiropractic focuses on correcting misalignments in the upper cervical region of the spine called subluxations, or more specifically, superior cervical subluxations. Upper cervical spine chiropractors focus on the top two vertebrae of the spine, called C1 (atlas) and C2 (axis). Upper cervical care is generally gentler than general chiropractic care, making it a great option for sensitive patients.

Manipulation of the upper cervix affects the entire body. This manipulation helps the brain send and receive signals properly. Typically, x-rays and 3D technology are used to pinpoint exactly where a vertebra may need to be adjusted. The misaligned vertebrae interact with the spinal cord and brainstem, resulting in ineffective or dysfunctional signals from the nervous system.

Skilled upper cervical chiropractors will use an Atlas Orthogonal Percussion tool. This state-of-the-art instrument provides a subtle yet gentle focus to be applied and gives precise adjustments. This eliminates the need to crack the neck or apply forceful pressure, which can do more harm than good.

There are many chiropractic philosophies. At Natural Care Chiropractic, our philosophy is that we can show you the before, during, and after-effects of your treatment plan using the latest technology and the latest scientific literature. Our patients don't spend hours in the office every week. Their treatment plan is designed to get them out of the office and back to their favorite activities. Book a consultation call with us today and see if chiropractic care is right for you.


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