Neck pain, whether caused by whiplash or other injury, is a serious condition that can lead to chronic headaches, lost time at work, and an overall reduction in quality of life. It is one of the leading reasons people seek out the help of a chiropractor.
But while many people react to neck pain by reducing their level of physical activity, research shows that exercise, when combined with chiropractic manipulation, may be the true key to recovery. A recently published review of studies on different treatments for neck pain reveals that in many instances, patients experienced the greatest pain relief when they combined chiropractic manipulation and mobilization with exercise.
A team of researchers from McMaster University in Canada, Northwestern Health Sciences University in Minnesota, and the Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College reviewed the results of 17 controlled trials conducted between 1996 and 2009, each of which looked at different treatments for neck pain. Patients in the trials included those suffering from acute neck pain, chronic conditions, symptoms related to whiplash, cervicogenic headache, and those with degenerative conditions. The trials investigated the effectiveness of combining chiropractic manipulation with exercise, compared to the effectiveness of no treatment at all, manipulation alone, exercise alone, traditional cures (including medication and wearing neck collars), or other responses like surgery or electrotherapy.
The research showed that patients who underwent a combined treatment of manipulation, mobilization, and exercise experienced greater short- and long-term pain relief than those who received either no treatment or only one type or therapy. The combined approach was also more effective at reducing pain than traditional treatments. In addition, these patients reported greater improvement in quality of life, and greater satisfaction with their results.
In their analysis, the researchers suggest that while manipulation and mobilization has been shown effective for relief of neck pain, combining this treatment with certain exercises can result in a greater benefit for patients, especially over the long term. Though they note that more research will be needed to determine what specific types of exercise are most effective, they conclude that pairing exercise with chiropractic manipulation may provide significant benefits to patients who suffer from many different types of neck pain.
Miller J, Gross A, D'Sylva J, Burnie SJ, Goldsmith CH, Graham N, Haines T, Bronfort G, Hoving JL. Manual therapy and exercise for neck pain: A systematic review. Manual Therapy 15(2010) 334-354.