Neck Pain Treatment: Is Chiropractic A Suitable Option For You?
In anatomical terms the neck is referred to as the cervical spine and it is perhaps the most important and delicate area of the spinal column.The neck consists of seven individual vertebrae that differ in shape and size. The primary role of the cervical spine is to provide flexibility and movement, surround the brainstem, spinal cord, nerves and blood vessels as well as bearing the weight of the head. Neck pain is an extremely common problem in society and there are a variety of sources that may contribute or cause neck pain. Some of these identified causes include whiplash, poor posture, muscular strain, ligament and tendon injury, joint sprain, inflammation, spinal misalignment, disc injury or degenerative disc disease, infection, abnormal sleeping posture or arthritis.
Individuals seek neck pain treatment with Chiropractors and other musculoskeletal professionals on a daily basis. Besides lower back pain, there is no doubt that it is the most frequent clinical presentation that we see in practice.
HOW IS NECK PAIN MANAGED?
While there are a variety of medical or complimentary neck pain management techniques we have focused on gentle, non-invasive therapies which you will find additional information about below.
When you think of a Chiropractor, more often than not you will imagine a practtioner “cracking your bones.” While Chiropractors are experts in spinal manipulation there are numerous techniques that we may also use to treat neck pain when it is appropriate to do so. Everyone is different, therefore a technique that is suitable for one person may not suit someone else. Specific techniques that may be used to manage your neck pain include:
- Spinal manipulation is the most commonly used therapeutic tool for Chiropractors. This technique involves ‘adjusting’ the joints of the spine or extremities to restore normal movement and neural system function. Spinal manipulation results in improved flexibility, reduced pain, restoration of joint alignment and muscle relaxation. There are certain cases when spinal manipulation should not be used including suspected bone fracture, spinal instability, hypermobility and progressed degenerative disease.
- Cervical spine mobilisation is a gentle, non-cavitating (“popping”) version of spinal manipulation. This technique is suitable for those with extremely acute and severe neck pain and involves the doctor gently stretching and opening the joints of the neck to improve movement. Cervical mobilisation is particularly suitable for individuals who prefer a more gentle type of treatment
- Cervical traction therapy is fantastic for cases of neck pain that is the result of disc injury or abnormal neck curvature. Traction therapy involves applying an upward force upon the neck to open joints, reduce disc and nerve pressure.
- Cervical drop-piece technique is a gentle therapy that may be used for a variety of reasons. Commonly this technique is used for individuals that require rehabilitation of their cervical spine curvature.
As with most musculoskeletal complaints, compensatory muscular changes are commonly present. Problems like muscle tightness, fascial shortening and muscle trigger points require specific myofascial therapy like massage to assist with healing and may be used by your doctor if it is indicated.
With many cases of neck pain, exercises are a fantastic way to assist healing and improve recovery times. Generally speaking, flexibility exercises are initially prescribed. Once pain levels have stabilized progression towards strengthening weakened neck musculature can take place.
CHIROPRACTIC & NECK PAIN RESEARCH
- Cervical spine manipulation and stretching techniques resulted in comparable improvements in neck pain symptoms highlighting there benefits as a viable neck pain treatment option. Hurwitz, E et al (2002). A randomized trial of Chiropractic Manipulation and Mobilisation for patients with neck pain: Clinical outcomes from the UCLA neck-pain study. American Journal of Public Health, 92(10); 1634 – 1641
- Chronic neck pain sufferers demonstrated greater outcomes following a combination of spinal manipulation and strengthening based exercises compared to spinal manipulation alone. Bronfort, G et al (2001). A randomized clinical trial of exercise and spinal manipulation for patients with chronic neck pain. Spine, 26(7); 788 – 797
- Statistically significant improvements were noted in overall pain and disability following Chiropractic neck pain treatment. McMorland, G et al (2000). Chiropractic management of mechanical neck and low back pain: A retrospective, outcome based analysis. Journal of Manipulative & Physiological Therapeutics, 23(5); 307 – 311