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Guest post by Scott Herbowy, PT, Dip. MDT – Supervisor for the St. David’s Spine and Sports Clinic.

Neck pain will affect nearly 75% of all people at some point during their lives. Sedentary people tend to be more susceptible which with an increasing population of work place “sitters” the trend of sufferers with neck pain can be expected to worsen.

The average person seeks relief with medication, heat, cold, traction, chiropractic care, physical therapy, injections or even surgery. Many of these interventions have not been proven in efficacy and some have actually been shown to provide temporary relief only. What’s the poor person who suffers from neck pain to do? One answer has just been proven. Exercise!

A federally funded study published this past week in the journal, The Annals of Internal Medicine looked at 272 people with neck pain without a specific cause for at least 2 weeks and no longer than 3 months. The individuals were divided into three treatment groups. The first group received 12 weeks of Chiropractic care with a focus on spinal manipulation. Those patients also received limited massage, stretching, heat and/or cold. The second treatment group was prescribed medications such as NSAID’s, analgesics, and/or muscle relaxants. The third group was provided with 2 one hour-long sessions to be evaluated to determine and learn the specific neck exercises required for their condition. They were to perform the exercises 6-8 times a day. They were also given information on basic neck anatomy and postural education. All groups were recommended to stay as active as possible.

Results and measurements were taken beginning at 2 weeks after initiating treatment continuing for up to one year. Primary outcome measurement was patient-rated pain. Secondary measures were self-reported disability, satisfaction, medication use and general health status.

For pain, both the chiropractic care groups and self-exercise groups had a statistically significant advantage over the medication group. No important differences in pain were found between the chiropractic and exercises groups. Results in the secondary measures were similar.

The conclusion is that learning self treatment exercises in only 2 visits is as effective as 12 weeks of chiropractic care while both are significantly superior to medication alone. Additionally, the benefit gained from exercises was seen for one year after instruction, when the study concluded. In may be surmised that this benefit would continue with ongoing performance of the exercises.

Good news for neck pain sufferers! To find the right neck exercises you should consult a physical therapist specifically trained in neck and spine care.

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