How many of you, reach for the bottle of pain killers at the first sign of pain?  The Annals of Internal Medicine just published an article that looked at the effects of spinal manipulation vs. home exercises vs. medication for neck pain and concluded that, although medication definitely has its purpose, when it comes to neck pain, it is NOT the most effective form of treatment.

Results of the study demonstrate that there was a statistically significant difference in pain reduction in the spinal manipulation group compared to the medication group.  This difference was seen in both short and long term analysis.  In both spinal manipulation and exercise group there was a 50% and 75% reduction in pain at 12 weeks, respectively, compared to the medication group.

Two other interesting findings were; firstly, although all groups had reported adverse reactions, 60% of the medication group reported systemic type adverse reactions whereas the spinal manipulation and home exercise group only reported 40% and 46% of musculoskeletal adverse reaction.  Hence, more adverse reactions were seen in the medication group compared to the other groups.  Ironically, although many people see spinal manipulation as a more invasive form of treatment, it had the least adverse reactions.  Another interesting finding which both doctors and patients should note was that participants in the medication group reported higher levels of medication use after the study.

It is quite evident which forms of treatments are shown to be more effective for patients with acute or sub-acute neck pain.  Indirectly, this article also demonstrates to patients that when seeking treatment from healthcare providers such as a chiropractor or physiotherapist, ensure that those providers use manual therapy techniques (such as spinal manipulation) and active prescribed exercise in their treatments.  Not all physiotherapists are trained in manual therapy and many chiropractors and physiotherapists will over-emphasize passive care (i.e. spinal manipulation, massage, acupuncture etc.) and neglect the importance of active care (exercise).