As we age, those nagging aches and pains start to impact on your quality of life. Chronic neck pain is high on the list.
Almost since the opening of my practice I have taught a variety of classes at a senior-oriented branch of a local community college called NAILS (New Adventures In Learning for Seniors). That’s where I first met Marge. Marge secretly wanted to come in to my office for treatment because she suffered from chronic neck pain. However, she also had osteoporosis so her primary care doctor told her not to see a chiropractor because she had weak bones.
Good thing she followed his recommendations. After all, I climb on my desk and, with a Tarzan-like roar, jump onto my unsuspecting patient in an attempt to adjust their spines. When I’m really busy I just stack them on top of each other and adjust them all at once. Very dangerous for weak bones.
For the next few years, Marge continued to see me occasionally at the NAILS events and continued to suffer with neck pain based on her primary care doctor’s recommendation. At some point, however, her confidence in my ability to safely treat her overcame her primary care’s warning.
Good thing she did. I treated Marge on and off over the next 10 years or so until she passed, even visiting her in hospice when her time was near. She not only achieved wonderful relief from her neck pain, but her energy levels improved because she was no longe battling pain all day long. She even took my advice to get into yoga, which turned out bad for business because she was seen less frequently in the office after she started yoga.
The sad part is that she still spent several extra years in pain because of biased and incorrect advice from her primary care. We certainly did not treat her in the same manner we would treat a college football player or MMA fighter, but we were able to balance treatment and safety to give her wonderful results.
All of this leads up to the results of this particular study. In it, researchers looked at 241 participants aged 65 years or older with neck pain, rated at a 3 or higher (on a scale from 0–10) of at least 12 weeks duration. They were then put into three groups:
- A group who were only given home exercises (standard approach)
- The same home exercises along with a supervised exercise group (the basic physical therapy approach)
- The final group was given the home exercises but also received manipulation for 12 weeks.
After 12 weeks of treatment, the group that received manipulation had the best results (10% greater decrease in pain compared with the home exercises alone group and 5% better results over supervised exercise plus home exercise).
As an added bonus, none of the seniors treated with manipulation in this study died or ended up with multiple neck fractures as a result of any over-zealous neck manipulations.
Not that the results of this should come as any big surprise to anyone who has seen a chiropractor before for neck pain or to any of my colleagues, but sometimes it’s nice to see it in writing. And hopefully, studies like these can keep future Marges from suffering unnecessary pain when safe and effective treatments are available.