What we have known intuitively for quite some time at The Live Well Centre, is now supported further with a new medical study. Seeing a chiropractor or engaging in light exercise relieves neck pain more effectively than relying on pain medication, new research shows.
The new study is one of the few head-to-head comparisons of various treatments for neck pain, a problem that affects three quarters of North Americans at some point in their lives but has no proven, first-line treatment. While many people seek out spinal manipulation by chiropractors, the evidence supporting its usefulness has been limited.
But the new research, published in The Annals of Internal Medicine, found that chiropractic care or simple exercises done at home were better at reducing pain than taking medications like aspirin, ibuprofen or narcotics.
Theses methods also offer the least side effects.
In the study, 272 neck-pain patients were followed for 12 weeks, and those who used a chiropractor or exercise were more than twice as likely to be pain free compared to those who took medication. Specifically, 32 percent who received chiropractic care became pain free, 30 percent who exercised became pain free, while only 13 percent who were treated with medication became pain. This greater effectiveness was present for both the short term as well as the long term.
Enhance your care with the use of both
In the study, they did not look at the effects of combining both chiropractic and exercise, which is something that we do with every patient at The Live Well Centre. I am sure that those effects would be exponentially higher over all, as that is the only way to address both the acute pain as well as the biomechanical cause of the pain.
Get the correct diagnosis first, to determine the care for your neck condition!
It is imperative to see a qualified professional such as a chiropractor to initially determine the proper diagnosis for neck pain. Once that is set, the proper treatment protocol can be followed. Exercise should always be a foundational support to the recovery, as it will help lead to improved posture, range of motion and functionality of the body. This in turn treats the underlying source of pain, as well as help prevent chronic neck pain from developing in the first place.
The type of exercises we should do for neck pain varies depending on the type of condition one is suffering from (ie. arthritis, disc, muscle, nerve), and should always be monitored by a professional. The exercises can certainly be done at home, you simply want to make sure you are doing the right exercise with the right technique for you.
Consistency and frequency are important for your neck exercises
As a sample, here is our kinesiologist, Michelle McCalpin, demonstrating a few important neck mobility and postural exercises, that can be done anywhere. These exercises are especially important if you are sitting at a desk or working on a mobile device, as that creates a great postural stress to our necks and upper spine. The most important issue is doing the exercises frequently and consistently. You do not have to exercise for long durations, in fact it is better to do shorter duration but more frequently. Hence the name microbreak!
To be done every 20-30 minutes while sitting at a desk.
1) Lift your chest and rotate your arms so they reach out behind you, palms facing upwards and shoulder blades pushing together. Hold this for 10 seconds.
2) Stand up and stretch your arms straight up to the ceiling. Begin to make a climbing motion as if you were climbing a ladder, alternating between both hands. 10 reaches with each arm.
3) Stretch your arms out straight to the side of you with one palm up and the other down. Start to rotate the shoulders, switching which palm is facing up. Repeat 10 times.
Stand with your back against a wall, heels about an inch away from the wall. Bring your arms up beside you, bending at the elbow to make a Y position. Try to have all parts touch the wall; fingers, wrists, elbows and shoulders. Draw your belly button inwards to bring your lower back to the wall. While trying to keep everything touching the wall, begin to raise your arms over your head until they are fully extended and then lower to starting position.
And remember, Michelle is an excellent resource to use to specifically determine the right exercise protocol for yourself. Along with Drs Pain and Gifford, who have years of experience treating many types of neck conditions, you are in safe hands!