Neck pain treatment – what works?

Chiropractors BrightonNeck pain is remarkably common with nearly half of us suffering at one time or another. Worst of all it keeps coming back.  Many different types of treatment are currently used so which ones should you choose if you have neck pain? A recent review into the best ways to treat neck pain has just been published and it makes interesting reading.

Manipulation or mobilisation are good treatment options for neck pain especially when combined with laser therapy and advice, stretching and specific exercises. Massage can be helpful in combination with other forms of treatment but not on its own. This package of care is what our chiropractors and physio’s do here at Sundial.

The treatments that don’t have evidence of working for neck pain include TENS machines (is anyone still using these?); traction and trigger point therapy (a form of deep pressure on tender tight points in a muscle).

These findings are broadly similar to the Bone and Joint Decade (BJD) Task Force report on neck pain in 2008.  In this report they go further by recommending acupuncture and pain killer medication. The list of treatments unlikely to help for neck pain are the same but go on to advise against surgery, collars, ultrasound, most types of injection into the neck and radio-frequency denervation.

The BJD report offers some helpful advice about choosing the right sort of treatment for a bad neck. Don’t expect to find a single “cause” for your neck pain. Stay as active as you can, reduce mental stress and try over-the- counter pain relievers first. If pain persists then seek treatment form a practitioner with the right sort of expertise. The authors conclude that no one treatment is likely to help everyone and you may need to mix and match approaches to find what works for you. Any treatment should show some improvement in your symptoms within two to four weeks. If not try something else. This advice also applies if you have mild whiplash from a road traffic collision for instance.

So what are the main points from these two reports? Two groups looking at neck pain independently have come up with very similar recommendations. These recommendations are also similar, as you might expect, for other spine related problems like back pain. Conservative treatment is best, you have to help too by doing the home exercises and keep going to find what works for you.

These messages are a big relief to the thousands of people who endure regular neck pain.



Evidence-based guidelines for the chiropractic treatment of adults with neck pain. Bryans R, Decina P, Descarreaux M, et al. Journal of Manipulative & Physiological Therapeutics 2014; 37: 42-63.

The Bone and Joint Decade 2000- 2010 Task Force on Neck Pain and Its Associated Disorders; Executive Summary,  (2008), Haldeman S, Carroll L et al. Spine 33(4S):S5-S7

Can regular chiropractic care prevent back pain here in Brighton?

If you are one of the four out of five people will go on to develop regular bouts of back pain after an initial attack, this is an important question to answer. For over 100 years chiropractors have claimed that regular treatment can prevent recurrences of back pain. Are we right?

For most of the 20th century, medical treatment, including here in Brighton, consisted of bed rest and painkillers for back pain. Unfortunately, this contributed to an increase in the cases of recurrent back pain. From 1980 until 2000 the number of days off work in the UK due to back pain doubled every decade.

Eventually, GPs stopped treating back pain this way and accepted what chiropractors and others had been saying that active treatment is best. It is also true that chiropractors accepted that painkillers and anti-inflammatory medication are also helpful, whereas up until then old school chiro’s often shunned drugs.

Medical Treatment for Back Pain

Even now, however, back pain treatment from the doctor consists of a brief course of physio or medication which stops as soon as the symptoms stop. If you have had recurrent back pain you will be all too familiar with the trips to the doctor, prescriptions for strong drugs, referral to the physio (after a wait of many weeks) then being given a few exercises. You are probably fed up with your back feeling vulnerable and about to go at any time. You may even find that you’re limiting your activities to avoid the things that bring it on. If so, what can be done to prevent the dreaded back pain from returning?

Well, new medical research, published in 2011, suggests that an initial intensive course of manipulation such as our chiropractors in Brighton do here at Sundial, followed by periodic checkups and treatment may help prevent long-term back pain from re-occurring. Interestingly, those that did not receive the continuing course of care lost their earlier improvements.

Preventative Chiropractic Treatment Works

So the evidence seems to point to an initial course of treatment over a few weeks to get rid of the initial pain and improve function followed by a course of care over the next few months to make sure that those improvements are maintained. Here at Sundial we use the best available evidence to guide our treatment and we generally stick to this sort of plan in helping you get better.

If you would like to know if preventative chiropractic care can help you then give us a call for an initial chat, at no charge.