Neck pain is one of the most common reasons why people seek care with chiropractors in Singapore.

While it may be a scary experience, most of the time neck pain is benign and will go away by itself.

In this guide we discuss:

  • What is pain?
  • What causes neck pain?
  • Is neck pain a sign of something serious?
  • Should I see a chiropractor for neck pain?
  • What neck pain treatments are available in Singapore?


Why does my neck hurt so bad?

Before we talk about your neck symptoms, it is important for you to understand that pain is complex and multifactorial:

1. Pain refers to any unpleasant experience. This means all the soreness, aches, stiffness and tightness you experience fall within pain.
2. Pain is not an indication of damage. Most people think of pain as a sign that something wrong is going on in the body (e.g. my joints are “worn out“). This is not supported by the latest research. Pain and damage are two separate things.
3. You can have pain without damage and damage without pain. Take for example, stepping on a piece of lego. There is a lot of pain with zero damage.

You can read more about the mechanism of pain in our earlier blog entry Why Your Pain Hurts: From a Bayesian Brain Approach.

To understand why you are current in pain, you have to understand the purpose or function of pain.

Pain works as an “alarm system” for your body. It is a survival mechanism that is designed to warn you of actual or potential threats.

If you bump hard enough into a car, you can trigger its alarm. Does that mean the car is being broken into? No. It’s a false alarm.

Likewise if you are experiencing neck ache or soreness from sitting at the computer, it is likely that you have an oversensitive “alarm”. Your brain interprets the prolonged sitting experience (or stimulus) as a threat and gives you the pain you are currently experience.

What is neck pain a symptom of?

chiropractor, jesse cai, neck pain
Jesse Cai guiding award-winning wakeboarder Clare Yau through a series of neck exercises. You can exercise your neck ache and soreness away!

The better question is what doesn’t cause neck pain and stiffness.

Most of us believe that neck pain is the result of “something wrong” in the body. Too often, chronic neck pain patients are fixated on trying to find a root cause for our neck aches and soreness. However, research tells us that many factors go into a pain experience!

More often than not, trying to find a root cause (e.g. x-rays, MRIs) lead to poorer treatment outcomes.

You may think your neck alignment is off, your poor posture is the culprit, or maybe you think there is wear and tear in your neck joints because of age. The good news is all of these are false! While it is common to read about the harm of “text neck” on social media, research has consistently shown that you don’t need good posture!

“Text neck” is nothing more than broscience and marketing fluff.

With that in mind, these are the possible causes of neck problem:

Postural strain is not to be confused with “poor posture”.

Postural strain refers to being in a position that is taxing for your body for long periods. This is the muscle pain most people experience with sitting.

For example, neck and shoulder soreness from a long flight or a long drive. Assuming you do have “bad posture”, forcing yourself to sit extremely upright for a couple of hours is likely to cause postural strain.

Again, this is not related to your actual posture.

Stress and anxiety puts your bodily alarm system out of whack.

It increases your susceptibility to pain and if you are currently in a pain episode, it might increase the intensity of your symptoms.

Acute strains and sprains. On occasion, we may strain our neck muscles or sprain the joints in our neck in our day to day life.

It is usually very painful at the onset but will subside with time. Such muscle and ligament pain episodes lasts for anything from a couple of days to up to six week. In such cases, do consider applying some load management principles to avoid aggravating your pain.

Pinched nerve. It is also possible for pinched nerve or bone spurs to contribute to your neck pain experience.

They typically come with numbness and tingling (known also as radiculopathy) down your arms. As uncomfortable as they may sound, pinched nerve are minor problems that mostly resolve on their own with time.

When to worry about your neck pain

If your chronic neck pain lasts for more than six weeks, you may want to consider seeking professional help from a chiropractor or physiotherapist.

Your chiropractor will be able to help you manage your symptoms. A good chiropractor will prescribe you with exercises to give you long-term relief. They may also address the lifestyle changes (e.g. better sleep quality, more physical activity, better stress management) to help you manage your symptoms.

It is unlikely that you will need to consult a spine surgeon. In the rare cases where there is a brain and spinal cord involvement (e.g. spinal stenosis), you will be referred to an orthopaedic surgeon or neurologist.

If you experience one of the following “red flags” signs and symptoms, please seek medical advice as soon as possible:

  • Unexplained weight loss or weight gain
  • Unexplained fever, chills, or night sweats
  • Unable to bend your neck forwards
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control
  • Numbness or weakness on only one side of your face, arm, or leg
  • Difficulty speaking or swallowing
  • Visual disturbances – sudden loss of vision, tunnel vision
  • Sudden tension headache onset that is unlike those you have had before

What exercises help neck pain?

I know your neck soreness is real and it is a distressing experience. The best thing you can do for yourself at this stage is to relax. If you are having trouble directing your attention away from your cervical spine, you might want to consider mindfulness practice.

Once you are fairly relaxed, there are a few neck pain exercises you may consider trying:

1) Resistance Neck Exercises

2) Range of Motion Exercises

3) Resisted Range of Motion Exercises

(Videos to come.)

The latest clinical practice guideline for neck injury does not support the use of pain killers.

Can chiropractors help neck pain?

jesse cai, chiropractor, neck pain
Paul Foster, star of Netflix reality show Singapore Social, receiving a massage from chronic neck pain. While manual therapy is not a long term pain solution, it does provide temporary pain relief.

The biggest difference between a chiropractor and a massage therapist or stretch therapist is the training they received. Chiropractors are musculoskeletal (i.e. muscle and joints) health experts who had undergone years of chiropractic clinical training to diagnose and treat your symptoms.

On the other hand, masseuse do no have clinical training and by extension cannot diagnose your neck pain. It is common for massage therapist to treat your pain with only manual therapy (soft tissue massage, trigger point therapy, etc).

Chiropractors are trained to provide  an array of treatments such as chiropractic adjustments, dry needling, exercise rehabilitation, physical therapy, ultrasound or laser therapy.

To become an accredited doctor of chiropractic in Australia, chiropractors trained for a minimum of five years at a university level.

How can I relieve my “stiff neck”?

Believe it or not, the best treatment for neck pain is actually exercise. While common passive treatments as such chiropractic adjustments, dry needling, IASTM, trigger point therapy are great for providing some short term relief, exercise + education/coaching is the best approach to long term pain free living.

Instead of focusing solely on pain relief, exercise therapy also takes into consideration your capacity for your current lifestyle.

A good massage may help you feel better for a few days but the discomfort almost certainly always comes back.

Forget the “stiff neck remedy”, a good exercise prescription program will address factors that contributes to your pain so you can achieve long term results.

If you spend eight hours at the computer and your neck starts to ache after two hours, a bad chiropractor or physiotherapist will ask you to spend less time at a computer.

On the other hand, good chiropractors will look at why your symptoms start after two hours and increase your capacity to sit to beyond eight hours. This can be achieve through neck strengthening exercises.

The direct result? You get less pain.

Manual therapy tend to focus on relaxing the muscle strain or removing trigger points. None of these approaches are supported by current research. A paper published earlier this year on the 11 best recommendations for musculoskeletal pain advise for hands-on therapy to be used only as an adjunct.

As for what you can do for yourself at home, you may want to gentle stretching for some temporary relief.

If you have a heat pack or heating pad, they tend to help with aches and soreness as well.

We do not recommend that you apply ice because evidence to support icing – even in acute or sport injury cases – is lacking.

Chiropractic treatment for neck pain

Traditional chiropractors believe that chiropractic subluxations are the cause of your neck symptoms. Their approach to your pain consequentially revolve around treatments to remove subluxations. However, no reasonable quality research to date has been able to demonstrate the existence of chiropractic subluxation.

Read more about how subluxation is dogma rather than science.

In addition to that, results with subluxation-based chiropractors tend to be slow and/or short term. It is not uncommon to hear about them selling packages from 12 up to over 40 sessions.

Unfortunately, there are few chiropractic adjustment benefits. Most of which are short-term. This may be why chiropractors who only do adjustments need to sell packages. To learn more, check out our blog post on spinal manipulation.

Chiropractor for stiff neck

Evidence-based chiropractors are completely different from the traditional chiropractors. We take into consideration the latest research on what works the best for your neck pain.

Because we are willing to adapt and embrace the latest research, we offer more than just spinal adjustments. As a result, you get better results with us than traditional chiropractors.

Square One is one of the only practices in Singapore to offer an evidence-based approach to your neck pain. Over 80% of our clients will experience resolution of their symptoms within four to seven visits. This could be you.

In your treatment program, we will take into consideration your current lifestyle (sedentary vs. athletic) and work with your goals.

If your goal is to sit at the computer for eight hours, we are not going to help you achieve just that. If you have a tendency to sprain your neck during your weekly tennis games, we will also work with you to address the factors that are contributing to your neck sprain. Square One likely offers the most holistic approach to neck pain treatment and we deliver true long term results.

What now?

Take your time to process what it means to be living with neck pain. If we are looking to start chiropractic treatment for neck pain with Square One, you can book an appointment with us via the form below. We are located at Bukit Pasoh Road, just two minutes away from Outram Park MRT (purple line, Dorsett Hotel exit).

Read more:

Your Recovery Journey Begins Now

Frustrated by the lack of quality pain management and ethical business practices in Singapore, chiropractor Jesse Cai founded Square One to deliver recovery goals in just 4 to 7 visits. Not getting results from your chiropractor, TCM doctor or physiotherapist? Book an appointment and find out how we can take your recovery to the next level.