To describe a case of postsurgical neck pain, after multiple spinal surgeries, that was successfully treated by chiropractic intervention with instrumental adjustment of the cervical spine.


A 35-year-old woman had chronic neck pain for over 5 years after two separate surgeries of the cervical spine: a diskectomy at C3/4 and a fusion at C5/6. Surgeries were performed 6 months apart in an attempt to resolve persistent neck pain and spasm of the cervical musculature. Neither surgery was effective in relieving the patient’s pain. Five years after the second surgery, a third surgery was recommended by the patient’s physicians to alleviate the chronic pain. The patient sought chiropractic evaluation of her condition to avoid further surgical intervention.


The patient was treated with conservative instrumental chiropractic manipulation, consisting of mechanical force, manually assisted short-lever spinal adjustments rendered with an Activator Adjusting Instrument (AAI) II. She comfortably tolerated the treatment and responded favorably to this therapy. All chronic symptoms had resolved within 30 days of instituting the chiropractic instrumental adjustments with an AAI. More interestingly, longitudinal examination over the next 2 years showed that the patient experienced no residual effects or further recurrences of her previous chronic problem after her initial course of chiropractic care.


Chiropractic treatment of postsurgical neck syndrome may be effectively treated, in certain cases, by mechanical force, manually assisted adjusting procedures with an AAI. The use of instrumental adjustment methodology may provide chiropractic physicians with an effective alternative to manual manipulation in those cases in which the patient’s surgical history or presenting symptoms make forceful manipulation of the spine, particularly performed at end range, inappropriate. This approach may be contemplated by physicians faced with managing this type of condition. Further study should be made in this regard, in an academic research setting, to determine the safest and most effective approaches to managing postsurgical patients in a chiropractic setting.

J Manipulative Physiol Ther. 2001 Nov-Dec;24(9):589-95. [PMID:11753333]

Author information: Polkinghorn BS, Colloca CJ. Private practice of chiropractic, Santa Monica, Calif., USA.