Neck Pain: Manipulation vs. Other Treatments?

Mechanical neck pain affects an estimated 70% of people at some point in life. Because many different treatment approaches are available for neck pain, it can be very difficult for those suffering from neck pain to know which treatment approach(es) to choose. Research on this topic has revealed some very interesting information that places chiropractic and spinal manipulation in a VERY STRONG POSITION—in fact, at the TOP OF THE HEAP!

One such study looked at benefits of spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) in patients with acute and subacute neck pain. This study compared three study groups: 1. SMT only; 2. medication only; and 3. home exercise and advice (HEA). This study randomized 272 neck pain patients suffering from neck pain for 2 to 12 weeks into a twelve-week treatment period using 1 of the 3 treatment approaches tracking the results with the participant-rated pain as the primary treatment outcome measure. Secondary outcome data was obtained from other approaches. The results showed that the group treated with SMT, “…had a statistically significant advantage over medication after 8, 12, 26 and 52 weeks. HEA also had a statistical advantage over medication. Lastly, similar benefits were calculated between the SMT and exercise group. The conclusions support SMT and exercise/advise to be the choice over medication for acute and subacute neck pain patients. Regarding exercise, a similar study showed that “high-dosed supervised strengthening exercise” with and without SMT, was superior to a “low dose home mobilization exercise and advice group at 4, 12, 26, and 52 weeks.”

Regarding chronic neck pain patients (that means pain that has been present for greater than 3 months), another study evaluated the changes that occurred in 191 patients. These patients were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 treatment groups for eleven weeks and evaluated 3, 6, 12, & 24 months after treatment. The 3 treatment options included: 1. Spinal manipulative therapy (SMT) only; 2. SMT with low-tech neck exercises; or 3. a form of exercise using a MedX rehab machine. The results show the highest level of patient satisfaction was found in the 2nd group (SMT with low-tech exercise), suggesting that when individuals present for treatment, spinal manipulation with low-tech exercises results in the most satisfied patient. These findings are important as this study evaluated the LONG-TERM benefits among patients who have had neck pain for a long time (i.e., “chronic”), where as most studies only look at the short-term benefits.

Similar conclusions were reported from perhaps the largest scale study on neck pain based on research from 1980 to 2006 on the use, effectiveness, and safety of non-invasive treatment approaches for neck pain and associated disorders. This review that looked at over 350 published articles found manual therapy (manipulation and mobilization) and supervised exercise to again, SHINE when compared with other treatment options.

What is important is that ALL these studies support what chiropractors do: manipulate the neck and give supervised exercises! So, what are you waiting for? SPREAD THE WORD to everyone that you know who has neck pain—CHIROPRACTIC MAY BE THE BEST CHOICE!!!

Author
Dr. James Sheehan Dr. James Sheehan is an expert in the treatment of neck and back pain.

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