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Straight Chiropractic/Chiropractic Care Neck and Back Pain


I had pain in my neck where I could not turn it to the right.   I was also dealing with a sore should that I had for years.  I finally decided to get some Chiropractic care.  I had two sessions twice a week for three weeks.  By the end of three weeks with neck and back manipulation (cracking), I was feeling good and my neck felt amazing.  The last treatment, however, when my back was cracked, something didn't quit feel right.  By that evening my upper back and neck were in terrible pain.  This time I couldn't turn my head to the left and the burning sensation in my upper back was unbearable.  Laying down was worse but sitting up straight is painful too.  I called the Chiropractor after a weekend of suffering, and she had me come in for another adjustment.  I was fearful to go back.  She did another adjustment but I don't feel better.  I don't understand what could have happened or why my upper spine and neck are worse than when I went in?  

Will this pain go away on it's own?  I've been using a heating pad and theracane.  

Thank you for your time,

Dear Tom,

Thank you for your question about your symptoms and your treatment experiences thus far.  

You used the terms “chiropractic” and “manipulation” in your question. It seems there may be some misconceptions within your question.  Many people are unaware that there are two branches or schools of thought in chiropractic.  Briefly, they are differentiated by whether they deal with the limited therapeutic approach for aches and pains (commonly termed "mixed" chiropractic because it represents a mixture of a chiropractor with a non-chiropractic matter) or a non-therapeutic approach to optimum body performance (termed "straight" chiropractic because there is no mixing of chiropractic with anything else).  My expertise is in non-therapeutic straight chiropractic.

Therapeutic "mixed" chiropractic is the older approach based on a split from the founding principles of chiropractic about a century ago.  It is quite clear, based on your description of the events and circumstances, including “manipulation,” that you had chosen this type of chiropractic office.  

Non-therapeutic "straight" chiropractic is the more modern of the two.  It deals with a particular, common situation called a vertebral subluxation.  This is not the same as the findings you mentioned in your question, though they may exist together.  A vertebral subluxation involves some very specific components.  The spine is made of many bone segments which house and protect the spinal cord and the smaller spinal nerve branches that come off the spinal cord and exit between the bones.  These nerve pathways carry information or messages between the brain and the cells of the body.  These messages are essential for the life of the cells.  Without brain messages, the cells immediately begin the process of dying; i.e., they can no longer function the way they should to maintain life.

Because the bones are moveable, they can misalign in such a way as to interfere with the messages and, ultimately, the ability of the person to function at their best or express their optimum potential.  People with vertebral subluxations are not able to get all they can out of life.

Vertebral subluxations can be caused by a wide variety of factors, what we'll generally call stresses.  These stresses can be physical (such as accidental trauma or extreme exertion – falling off a bike or reaching for something, perhaps, as you reported – but even such things as sleeping posture, pillow and mattress condition, the birth process, sneezing, falling down, etc.), mental / emotional (in its many forms, probably the most familiar use of the word stress), or chemical (such as pollution, drugs, etc.), which are, unfortunately, regular parts of daily living for all age groups.  In short, a vertebral subluxation can occur for a multitude of reasons.

Tragically, vertebral subluxations are rarely obvious to the individual they affect.  They usually have no symptoms.  This is surprising to most people.  The reason is that most of what goes on inside you happens without your awareness.  As an example, try to "feel" your liver.  What's it doing right now?  You can't know, so you can't know if it's functioning at its best or something less.  To complicate things, nerve pathways that carry messages of control (termed "motor" nerves) have no way of transmitting ache or pain messages, so your body function may be far from perfect and you'd not have any alerting signal whatsoever.  The branching of the nerve pathways is complex and extensive, making it exceedingly difficult to predict or determine exactly how the person will be affected.  In order to know if someone has a vertebral subluxation, it is necessary to have that person’s spine checked by a non-therapeutic straight chiropractor using a method of "analysis."  When a vertebral subluxation is detected this way, it is obviously important to correct it as soon as possible.  

Since vertebral subluxations are caused by so many different things, people choose to go to a non-therapeutic straight chiropractor on a regular basis to enjoy the most time free of the life-robbing effects of vertebral subluxation. There's a saying that straight chiropractic is not about your back, it's not about your pain, it's about your life.  Each person has a unique potential in life.  With vertebral subluxation, it's impossible to realize that potential.

A key question, then, would be, Is someone with your symptoms and history better off with vertebral subluxation / nerve interference or free of subluxation / with the nerve channels open?  It is easy to see that having all the available nerve messages getting through is better than only some of them getting through, regardless of the person's situation otherwise.  

I know you were motivated to try chiropractic because of your symptoms yet, now, they are exacerbated and persistent.  You also ask whether you can expect to have you pain go away.  Even though this is not a service that I would provide in my field, I would say to you that diagnosis and prognosis under the best of circumstances is something of an art.  It would be irresponsible for anyone to give you a guess by e-mail or the web about your situation.  Diagnostic work and therapeutic advice is difficult enough when done properly.  It becomes a riskier proposition when done poorly.  You would be best served getting opinions from someone with first-hand knowledge about you, not a limited acquaintance through correspondence.  Anyone who is willing to speculate about your situation by e-mail is providing you little more than a guess and perhaps a dangerous one, at that!  

I suspect you have only been looking at this from a therapeutic mindset.  Most people understand the difference between doing the things that are necessary to keep themselves at their best and doing things only as the need arises as treatments.  Non-therapeutic straight chiropractic is part of the first group.  

It may be helpful to use an analogy.  Food is typically a non-therapeutic thing in our lives.  Nobody goes to a restaurant and scans the menu for the “disease and ailment” items, even though your body may have a better expression of its potentials when you give it food or develop some types of problems when you don’t.  We eat food simply because we’re better off nourished than we are starved.  It’s part of being at one’s best, not because we can avoid rickets or scurvy, for example.  Consider the same reasoning about non-therapeutic straight chiropractic.  You’re better off “nourished” with brain messages than starved of them if you expect to get the best out of your body.  Period.  It’s a simple concept but one that has far-reaching importance in what you get out of your life.  Everything you are or can be or do is dependent upon the successful transmission of the information of life between the brain and the cells of the body.  As we noted earlier, people who understand this try to have vertebral subluxations corrected as soon as possible after they occur.  They know that symptoms are not valid measures of nerve interference.  They visit a non-therapeutic straight chiropractor regularly in their efforts to have the most time free of vertebral subluxations.  

The term for the procedure of correcting vertebral subluxation is “adjustment,” not manipulation, the word you used in your question to describe what you experienced, but this is likely a therapeutic chiropractic office and, indeed, you may have experienced manipulation.  Manipulation of any kind is not an equivalent and the terms adjustment and manipulation are not interchangeable.  Adjustment is a very specific term of art.  I cannot comment, then on whether what you had done to you may have helped or harmed you because I do not know enough about you or the exact experience you had.  The procedures used with you would not be the equivalent of adjustments of vertebral subluxations as we’ve discussed here.

As I mentioned earlier, not all chiropractors adhere to the non-therapeutic straight chiropractic viewpoint and it is important that you be able to distinguish which ones do if you're going to seek this type of service.  You need to understand very clearly that the practice objectives of therapeutic mixed chiropractic and non-therapeutic straight chiropractic are quite different, as described above.  What information I give you must not be interpreted from the mixed viewpoint.  It would certainly be wise to have your spine checked for subluxations by a non-therapeutic straight chiropractor - but this would be for the purpose of being free of the life-robbing effects of vertebral subluxation, not for the treatment of your pain.  In other words, non-therapeutic straight chiropractic can be of benefit to any spine-owner, but perhaps in ways that you may not have considered.  It’s not that you should see a non-therapeutic straight chiropractor FOR these concerns – you should visit one in an effort to be free of vertebral subluxations, even WITH such matters in your history.  

If you are interested in finding out how to locate a non-therapeutic straight chiropractor in your area or if you have any other questions, please contact me at this site again or at  

Tom, I wish you the best in understanding what chiropractic has to offer.  It has been my pleasure to provide you with some information.

James W. Healey, D.C.  

Straight Chiropractic

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James W. Healey, D.C.


I can answer questions about what is known as Straight Chiropractic, a modern branch of chiropractic focusing on individual potential and optimum human performance, and Vertebral Subluxation, a very common condition of spinal bones which affects an individual`s ability to express their full potential in every aspect of human performance.


I have been in this field for over thirty years, in private practice and as a lecturer at seminars around the country. I have served on the faculty and administrations of two Straight Chiropractic Colleges and was the president of a federally-recognized Straight Chiropractic accrediting agency.

I have served as an officer and director of the Federation of Straight Chiropractors and Organizations (FSCO), an international organization, and am a member and director of the Garden State Chiropractic Society (GSCS) in New Jersey. I am a member of The Chiropractic Trust and the review board of the Journal of Straight Chiropractic.

I am a regular contributor to Straight To You, the Journal of the Garden State Chiropractic Society and was a columnist for Dynamic Chiropractic. I have also been published in The Chiropractic Journal and publications of the Federation of Straight Chiropractors and Organizations.

I am a 1981 graduate of Sherman College of Straight Chiropractic, attended University of Chicago and hold a Bachelor's degree from Gettysburg College.

Awards and Honors
I am a member of Phi Beta Kappa and was named Chiropractor of the Year in 1986, 1991, 1996 and 1998 by the Garden State Chiropractic Society and Regent of the Year in 1985 by Sherman College of Straight Chiropractic.

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