- Chiropractic Resource Organization.     Support Chiropractic Research!

Daily Archives: November 12, 2011

The Posterior Neck and Cervical Spine

By |November 12, 2011|Cervical Spine, Diagnosis, Education|

The Posterior Neck and Cervical Spine

The Chiro.Org Blog

We would all like to thank Dr. Richard C. Schafer, DC, PhD, FICC for his lifetime commitment to the profession. In the future we will continue to add materials from RC’s copyrighted books for your use.

This is Chapter 5 from RC’s best-selling book:

“Symptomatology and Differential Diagnosis”

These materials are provided as a service to our profession. There is no charge for individuals to copy and file these materials. However, they cannot be sold or used in any group or commercial venture without written permission from ACAPress.

Chapter 5:   The Posterior Neck and Cervical Spine


With the important exception of neurologic and vertebral artery syndromes, most of the disorders witnessed in the posterior aspect of the neck are musculoskeletal conditions. Of particular significance are the symptom complexes of cervical arthritis, deformities, disorders of muscle tone, IVD syndromes, spondylosis, vertebral subluxation, tumors, and the effects of trauma. It is helpful to keep in mind that tumors of the cervical spine are usually secondary and that chronic degenerative disc disease and congenital anomalies may be asymptomatic for many years.

Functional Considerations

Nowhere in the spine is the relationship between the osseous structures and the surrounding neurologic and vascular beds as intimate or subject to disturbance as it is in the neck. Many peripheral nerve symptoms in the shoulder, arm, and hand will find their origin in the brachial plexus and cervical spine.

The gross mechanical function of the neck is determined by analysis of joint motion and muscle strength.


Gross joint motion is roughly screened by inspection during active motions. When a record is helpful, it is usually measured by goniometry. The prime movers and accessories responsible for voluntary joint motion in the cervical region are shown in Table 5.1.


Muscle strength is recorded as from 5 to 0 or in a percentage and compared bilaterally whenever possible. The major muscles of the neck, their primary function, and their innervation are listed in Table 5.2.

Structural and Neurologic Considerations

The healthy posterior neck provides stability and support for the cranium, a flexible and protective spine for movement, balance adaptation, and housing for the spinal cord and vertebral artery. From a biomechanical viewpoint, primary cervical subluxation syndromes may reflect themselves in the total habitus; from a neurologic viewpoint, insults may manifest throughout the motor, sensory, and autonomic nervous systems. Unlike the lumbar region, cervical disc herniations are not frequently associated with severe trauma; however, traumatic nerve root or cord compression has a high incidence in this area.

A general classification of musculoskeletal disorders of the neck is shown in Tables 5.3, and the function of the nerves of the cervical plexus and the brachial plexus is shown in Tables 5.4 and 5.5.

Anomalies and Deformities

Gross anomalies are rarely seen in chiropractic practice unless well adapted to the individual’s life-style. Those cases that have biomechanical significance vary in severity from minor to severe and occur multiply or singly. The cause is purely genetic transmission in about 35% of cases, and the remainder is due to environmental factors or a mixture of genetic and environmental factors. (more…)