A Chronic Pain in the Neck

397716_her_neck[originally published in KCN, September 2007]

It is estimated, that at any given time, 15% of the female population and 10% of the male population is suffering from chronic neck pain.  It’s one thing to have had a short-lived kink in the neck, but having neck pain that goes on for months and months without any intention of going away, well, is truly a “pain in the neck.”

If you have had neck pain for greater than 8 weeks — which was not caused by a whiplash accident and does not have an associated headache and/or arm pain — you fit the criteria of a recent literature review that was conducted by Howard Vernon, DC, PhD and colleagues out of Ontario, Canada.  Dr. Vernon, known in health care circles for his development of the widely used neck pain questionnaire given to patients (Vernon Neck Disability Index), set out with his team of researchers to exhaustively search through the multiple medical, chiropractic, and related health professional databases for effective manual treatment of chronic neck pain.

In the end, their search surfaced 1,980 journal citations published up to middle of 2005, which were then sifted down to 16 by a set of predetermined criteria and quality controls.  In other words, they were using the “best of the best.”  The majority of the trials, 9, focused on spinal manipulation, 5 focused on mobilization and non-manipulative therapy, and 2 focused on massage.

With respect to the manipulation trials, the team of researchers found that in the nine previously published randomized clinical controlled trails, there was “high-quality evidence” that patients with chronic neck pain showed significant pain-level improvements following spinal manipulation — up to 12 weeks post treatment.  Two of the studies looked even further down the road at 104 weeks following the last treatment and found some level of significant improvement still remained.

The researchers also found the literature supported the use of mobilization therapy (commonly used by chiropractors and physical therapists) for improving chronic neck pain — but unfortunately, the current evidence available from their search did not see a similar level of benefit for massage therapy when it came to chronic neck pain.

This literature review appeared in the 2007 March/April edition of the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics (www.mosby.com/jmpt).

Quoted in the American Chiropractic Association News, Dr. Vernon stated, “The results of the literature review confirm the common clinical experience of doctors of chiropractic:  Neck manipulation is beneficial for patients with certain forms of chronic neck pain.”   Soothing news for that “pain in the neck” that’s been nagging you  — and just one more reason to check out chiropractic.

________________

Sources used for this article:
Literature review:  spinal manipulation beneficial for neck pain.  ACA News.  August 2007.             http://www.acatoday.org/content_css.cfm?CID=2447
Vernon et. al.  Chronic mechanical neck pain in adults treated by manual therapy:  a systematic         review of change scores in randomized clinical trials.  JMPT.  (2007) 30, p. 215 – 227.
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