Alternative Treatments for Neck Pain

Alternative treatments for neck pain come in various forms, from herbal anti-inflammatories to acupuncture treatment, yoga and pilates to chiropractic therapy. Every neck pain treatment method has its advocates, and often its detractors, and patients may or may not find these therapies helpful in easing their suffering. An introduction to several therapies is included below beginning with alternative physical therapies, acupuncture and acupressure, and leading into information on herbal and nutritional therapeutic treatments.

Chiropractic Therapy for Neck Pain

A common treatment for upper back and neck pain, chiropractic care involving mobilization, manipulation and stretching can provide powerful relief from neck pain for some patients. Whiplash injuries and non-trauma-related neck pain often respond well to this style of treatment compared with conventional approaches such as restrictive cervical collars, medication and simple rest. Chiropractors may also suggest modifications to lifestyle and activities in an attempt to prevent future stress to the cervical area and the body as a whole.

As with all treatments, patients should make sure that they find an appropriately qualified practitioner and be aware that a proper diagnosis is imperative prior to receiving this kind of therapy. Without a proper diagnosis, chiropractic manipulation may simply worsen a condition. A responsible practitioner will want to discuss the details of the pain and its diagnosed causes prior to commencing therapy, for both the health of their patient and their own peace of mind.

Massage Therapy for Neck Pain

As a large number of patients suffering neck and back pain do so due to stress, poor posture, and inappropriate manual handling practices, massage can do a lot to alleviate the muscular tension that accompanies these activities. Massage may help remove lactic acid build-up in musculature that can cause muscle cramps and that painful ‘knot’ in the neck.

Massage using particular essential oils can be very helpful in aiding relaxation, improved circulation to the affected area and removal of toxic build-up due to poor oxygenation and nutrient delivery that frequently occurs when areas of the spine and neck are compressed for any length of time. Rosemary essential oil is particularly helpful for stimulating circulation and lavender can aid relaxation of the muscles. Massaging these oils in with a base oil encourages their absorption as the heat opens up pores in the skin. Adding a few drops to bathwater has a similar effect.

Yoga and Pilates for Neck Pain Relief

The success of these practices rests mainly on their ability to improve core muscle strength with subsequent and significant improvements in posture and balance. They can also decrease stress and tension in the body and help a patient suffering from neck pain to relax more easily and cope better with their pain. They are particularly good activities for those whose flexibility is poor and who could benefit from strategies to help prevent further pain and injury in the future.

If attending a yoga or pilates class it is important to ensure that the instructor is aware of any special circumstances which may prevent a patient from carrying out particular exercises, such as neck stretches, headstands etc. Classes specifically for those with injuries or medical conditions do exist and may be a useful way into the practices for beginners.


Although it may seem similar to chiropractic care on a surface level, osteopathy does actually have some substantial differences. Osteopaths generally provide a more holistic approach to therapy, with chiropractors using a wide range of techniques concentrating on the spine and osteopaths employing numerous techniques on the whole body with slightly less focus on just the spine. However, both sets of practitioners consider spine health integral to whole body health.

Osteopaths may use a counter-strain technique where the patient is moved into a position that encourages the restoration for motion to any strained muscles. They do not, unlike chiropractors, employ the ‘click-back’ technique of joint manipulation. Another osteopathic approach is the muscle energy technique where a patient starts in a specific position/stance and moves their muscles in a stylised way to encourage strength and recovery.

Soft tissue manipulation is also a feature of osteopathic care with the practitioner using both soft and deep pressure on the muscles near and around the spine. Traction and oscillating stretching and relaxation may also be features of a therapeutic session with an osteopath. A more extreme technique involves thrust and acute force to realign asymmetric muscles in accordance with their correct position.

Patients using osteopathy as part of their treatment may find it helpful in correcting postural imbalances, muscle weaknesses and strains, and in preventing or relieving neck pain. Treatments are generally not painful, but involve more gentle manipulation of the body to encourage correction of abnormalities.