Similar to back pain, neck pain affects almost all of us at some point in life, and the severity can range from a mild stiffness to complete incapacitation. Osteopathic care offers a non-drug, non-surgical method of treatment that MANY neck pain sufferers utilize and benefit from. The following is a description of what you can expect when treated with an evidence-based Osteopathic approach.
Let’s first discuss the different types of neck pain. One classification system divides neck pain into two main groups: acute and chronic. In the acute group, there is an onset of pain that comes on quickly and resolves in less than three months. Chronic neck pain represents the patients who continue to have neck pain longer than three months.
Studies show that patients experience immediate benefits—including pain reduction and mobility/range of motion (ROM) improvement—following cervical spinal manipulation, especially when administered on the same side as the neck pain. Short and medium-term benefits include pain reduction and ROM improvement when administered bilaterally (on both sides).
Multiple manipulations may be better than unsupervised stretching alone. However, studies show that stretching the neck muscles both before and after manipulation can improve a patient’s outcome. The combination of three-point traction and multiple manipulations can improve pain in the medium and long-term as well.
Other approaches commonly used by Osteopaths that immediately improve pain include mobilization, traction, trigger-point therapy (applying pressure over myofascial trigger points for 90 seconds), cervical pillows, and some modalities that include electric stimulation, ultrasound, low-powered laser, and pulsed electromagnetic field.
Active care or care that can be taught to patients includes exercise intended to improve pain and ROM in the medium and long-term. Exercises that emphasize strength and endurance can also be beneficial. Ongoing light and intensive exercise improves pain in the long-term and intensive exercise is favoured in the medium-term.