Mechanical Neck Pain


Mechanical neck and back pain implies the source of pain is in the spine and/or its supporting structure. This occurs when one of the joints in the spine loses its normal joint play (resiliency and shock absorption). It is detected through motion palpation, a procedure in which the doctor gently moves the joint in different directions and assesses its joint play. When a joint develops dysfunction, its normal range of movement may be affected and it can become painful. In addition, joint dysfunction can lead to a muscle imbalance and muscle pain and a vicious cycle:

  • The loss of joint play can cause abnormal signals to the nervous system (there are an abundance of nerve receptors in the joint).
  • The muscles related to that joint can subsequently become tense or, conversely, underactive.
  • The resulting muscle imbalance can place increased stress on the joint, aggravating the joint dysfunction that already exists.

Any joint of the spine, from the neck all the way down to the sacroiliac joints, can cause mechanical pain. Joints are designed to move and when they do not, pain and degeneration occurs. Conservative treatment is designed for maximizing motion, improving flexibility and finally maximizing muscular coordination, endurance and strength.

Mechanical neck pain can not only create local neck symptoms but also symptoms into the shoulders and upper extremities, as well as headaches. Most people with mechanical back pain experience pain primarily in the lower back. The pain may radiate (spread) to the buttocks, thighs, or knees. Many people may also experience spasms with mechanical back pain. Conservative management and changes in physical activity behavior will typically resolve this condition and can prevent future episodes. 

Mechanical Neck Pain