Neck pain can arise from a multitude of causes, from trauma like sports injuries and car accidents to just sleeping in an awkward position. It can also arise from non-traumatic causes like stress, anxiety, or depression. In the past, we’ve noted how forward head posture can increase the risk of neck pain and headaches. Suffice it to say, neck pain can arise from almost anything, and many times it’s very challenging to figure out the origin!
A recent study involved 272 nonspecific neck pain patients between the ages of 18-65 years who received twelve weeks of one of three treatments: spinal manipulative therapy (SMT); medication; or home exercise with advice (HEA). The primary method of assessing change involved tracking self-reported pain levels at 2, 4, 8, 12, 26, and 52 weeks and secondary measures included self-reported disability, global improvement, medication use, satisfaction, general health status, and adverse effects.
The results showed that SMT had a statistically significant advantage over medication regarding pain relief after 8, 12, 26, and 52 weeks, and HEA was superior to medication at 26 weeks. The study concluded that SMT was more effective than medication in both the short and long term for those with acute and subacute neck pain.
The research team added that 60% of participants in the medication group reported side effects—of which gut irritation and drowsiness were the most common. The SMT group experienced no significant adverse effects, but 46% of the SMT and HEA groups equally reported short-term soreness or achiness.
Another study showed for that for chronic neck pain patients, the COMBINATION of SMT and HEA yielded the best long-term outcomes compared to either one alone, with SMT favored in the acute stage (initial stage) of care. The challenge for doctors is to get people to continue with their exercises after their pain subsides, as studies show the dropout rate can be as high as 90%!