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I have seen people showing every sign of severe chronic psychological distress, unable to function well mentally because their neck will not stop harassing them. Neck pain and neck cricks routinely blend smoothly into the upper back.

The muscular roots of the neck extend well into the upper back, and those thoracic joints appear to be nearly as prone to “cricking” as the cervical joints.

Most GPs are not really competent to treat neck pain, or any other difficult musculoskeletal problem.9 But before you get too cynical about “mainstream medicine” and run off to an alternative professional like a chiropractor or massage therapist, guess what? I read scientific journals, I explain the science behind key points (there are more than 320 footnotes here, drawn from a huge bibliography), and I Researchers tested a series of web-based pain management tutorials on a group of adults with chronic pain.

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Even when nerve pain exists — which is much less commonly than people assume — it may prove to be a surprisingly minor problem that goes away on its own, or when other neck issues are addressed. Reading on is a great way to settle this unsettling issue in your mind once and for all.

Severe cases of nerve pain are Nerve pain “goes away on its own”? But this is about as close as I get to claiming that there is a miracle cure in this tutorial — and it’s not that all that miraculous. There is a section devoted to the many common misconceptions about nerve pain; another section to help you identify nerve pain (or the lack of it); and a third section about safety issues related to massaging around nerves in the neck.

The main text is user-friendly, but oodles of footnotes provide extra info and citations. If you disagree, let me know—I can take it, and I’ve made many changes over the years based on quality feedback.

But the reassuring news hasn’t gotten out, and the bogeyman of abnormal neck shape continues to be the basis of lots of expensive manual therapy that doesn’t work particularly well.7 Such ideas can be amazingly persistent.

often go together, affecting about 50% of adults per year,15 ranging in severity from trivial to crippling. But perhaps you should, because it’s a major sub-type of neck pain.

Almost every scientific paper on the subject starts by reeling off the ugly statistics about how many people are afflicted by neck pain, how many dollars it costs our economy every year, and how medically mysterious and tricky it is. It feels like something in a joint is catching or sticking or locking when you try to move, a seemingly mechanical failure.

I am a science writer and a former Registered Massage Therapist with a decade of experience treating tough pain cases. A tutorial like this is overkill if you’ve just woken up with a typical stiff neck. You need plenty of good information, because education and fear-reduction may actually be a good neck pain treatment,12 while therapies, drugs, and surgeries have a poor track record.3 .

I was the Assistant Editor of Science Based for several years. Put some heat on it, maybe do a little stretching, and you’ll probably be fine in a few days. The seriousness of chronic pain is often expressed in terms of the hair-raising economic costs of work absenteeism, but it may be much worse than that — a recent Swedish study shows that it probably even shortens people lives.4 The stakes are high. And yet there is an enormous amount of misinformation about neck pain.5 Only low back pain rivals neck trouble for the sheer tonnage of half-baked theories.

With some more informed and rational experimentation, many cases neck pain can improve from being almost crippling to detailed discussion of: face and jaw pain; neck pain with prominent nerve symptoms (tingling, numbness, zapping pain) in the arm; headaches11; and fresh whiplash, or other acute neck trauma.12 Most kinds of neck pain share some complications which I chronic neck pain.13 And this is particularly true if you had a lot of stress and aches and pains to begin with14 — a strange truth that is relevant to neck pain in general.

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