How big a problem is neck pain?

Your neck has a tough job. It has to hold up the weight of your head every day for a lifetime – and while it isn’t true that the more you learn the more your head weighs, it is true that the human head is incredibly heavy, relative to most of the animals we share the planet with. It’s easy to see how the neck can be stressed and strained!


The Neck

The neck has a difficult job – it has to hold up the weight of your head whilst providing a level of flexibility which we don’t expect from any other part of the body. The average human head weighs around 11 pounds (that’s just a fraction under 5kg) – but this obviously varies. This might not immediately seem like a lot, but the 7 bones and 20 muscles of your neck have to work together in perfect harmony to balance that weight and allow you to move your head around free of pain – all day, every single day.

Postural changes (think, time at a desk), sudden injuries, and arthritis are just a few of the primary causes of neck pain, and that pain can often be traced to a problem with either the muscles, bones, discs, or nerves in your neck.


Why is neck pain so disruptive?

Neck pain is perhaps the most disruptive type of spinal problem since it can make it so difficult to live life normally. If you’ve ever been unable to turn your head for a day or two, you know how life-changing neck pain can be. Neck pain also has a huge range of potential impacts – some neck pain is low grade and constant, other pain radiates into the head and causes migraines, other issues can result in sharp muscle spasms that restrict your ability to move.

Neck pain is often the result of the body trying to protect a spinal joint that isn’t moving correctly.

Almost every bone in your neck has a pair of sliding joints towards the back called facet joints. If those joints become “stuck,” your body will try to compensate, but, over time, that compensation can cause a cascade of additional challenges, resulting in, you guessed it – more pain.[1]


How much of a problem is neck pain?

Neck pain, like all kinds of pain, is as much of an issue as it causes you – we’re sure that your neck pain is a big problem! Thinking more broadly though, we can start to pin down just how big a problem neck pain really is.

For example, research indicates that up to 70% of people, worldwide, experience neck pain at some point. Women have historically reported more neck pain incidents than men, although it will be interesting to see if this changes as your working habits have also changed during the pandemic. Interestingly, Scandinavian countries have higher estimates for neck pain than the rest of Asia and Europe[2].

Neck pain is also the kind of condition which, on average, tends to resolve itself or will become chronic if not treated within a few weeks. Chronic pain is defined as pain that may persist for many months and most likely require the help of a specialist to resolve – which doesn’t mean it will never resolve itself, but it’s likely to take a long time. Out of all the people who suffer from neck pains, up to 30% will develop chronic neck pain over time if not treated early.

Whereas acute neck pain occurs suddenly and usually heals within a few days to weeks, chronic neck pain tends to last for months –  the core contributing factors can include tissue scarring, nerve damage, arthritis, etc. [3]

Neck pain tends to be persistent too –  In one survey of workers with neck pain, 26% of them had experienced a recurrence in less than one year. At least 42% of sufferers missed more than one week of work as a result, leading to lost wages, stress[4] – and perhaps even more neck pain!


Finally, and topically – the group at highest risk of neck pain is? ….

Office workers – especially relevant in the work from home age. Healthcare workers, manual labourers, and sports athletes are also at higher risk due to the nature of their work – the key link is, of course, that these workers commonly have postural issues that put undue stress on their necks.


How to treat neck pain

Prevention is very often the best cure when it comes to neck pain – as with any postural issue, it’s possible (if not always easy) to avoid the kinds of stresses which cause the pain in the first place. When neck pain does occur, a visit to the chiropractor can be an excellent way to begin to address the issue. We’ve been helping Chelmsford beat neck pain for over 20 years, so don’t be shy – book a consultation today!



[1] Intervertebral Kinematics of the Cervical Spine. The Spine Journal. 2018.

[2] René Fejer, Kirsten Ohm Kyvik and Jan Hartvigsen The prevalence of neck pain in the world population: a systematic critical review of the literature Eur Spine J. 2006 Jun; 15(6): 834–848.


[4] Langenfeld et al. Prognostic factors for recurrences in neck pain patients up to 1 year after chiropractic care, Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics September 2015

Blog by / November 6, 2021 / Blog

Dr. Paul Irvine is a doctor of chiropractic who graduated in 1994 with a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of NSW and in 1996, attained his Master of Chiropractic degree from Macquarie University in Australia. He practised in North Sydney for 5 years before he left Australia to travel and practise in the UK. He joined Complete Chiropractic in 2003 (est 1999) and took over the clinic in 2007