Neck pain is a common condition, affecting millions of Americans. In many cases, x-rays do not show anything visibly wrong with the neck, suggesting that the problem is a relatively subtle one involving soft tissues. (Conversely, x-rays of people without neck pain often show arthritis; this suggests that even when positive x-ray results are found in people with neck pain, they may be unrelated.) Subtle or not in origin, the discomfort of neck pain can be severe, and lead to real disability.
The cause of soft-tissue neck pain is not known. Symptoms may follow a whiplash injury, or simply arise, apparently, from bad posture or chronic tension.
NOTE: It is unclear that
conventional medicine intervention for neck pain or whiplash speeds recovery or produces any other long term benefit.
Proposed Natural Treatments
Although several alternative treatments for neck pain have shown promise, none possess meaningful scientific substantiation.
A 2006 review of the literature found ten controlled studies of acupuncture for chronic neck pain. 21 The pooled results suggest that acupuncture may be more effective than fake acupuncture, at least in the short term. However, overall the study quality was fairly low.
Interestingly, in a study of 177 people with chronic neck pain, fake acupuncture proved more effective than massage!
The most likely explanation for these contradictory reports is that acupuncture's effect on neck pain, if any, must be fairly modest.
Millions of Americans report that chiropractic spinal manipulation
In one study, an ambitious holistic treatment regimen for neck pain (including craniosacral osteopathy along with Rosen Bodywork and Gestalt Psychotherapy) failed to prove more effective than no treatment.
Other herbs and supplements sometimes recommended for neck pain, either on the basis of their use for related conditions, or because of their known medical properties, include
3. Nelson CF, Bronfort G, Evans R, et al. The efficacy of spinal manipulation, amitriptyline and the combination of both therapies for the prophylaxis of migraine headache. J Manipulative Physiol Ther . 1998;21:511–519.
9. Dziedzic K, Hill J, Lewis M et al. Effectiveness of manual therapy or pulsed shortwave diathermy in addition to advice and exercise for neck disorders: A pragmatic randomized controlled trial in physical therapy clinics. Arthritis Rheum . 2005 Apr 7 [Epub ahead of print].
16. Ventegodt S, Merrick J, Andersen NJ et al. A Combination of Gestalt Therapy, Rosen Body Work, and Cranio Sacral Therapy did not help in Chronic Whiplash-Associated Disorders (WAD) - Results of a Randomized Clinical Trial. Scientific World Journal . 2005;4:1055-68.
19. Martinez-Segura R, Fernandez-de-Las-Penas C, Ruiz-Saez M et al. Immediate effects on neck pain and active range of motion after a single cervical high-velocity low-amplitude manipulation in subjects presenting with mechanical neck pain: a randomized controlled trial. J Manipulative Physiol Ther . 2006;29:511-7.
23. Franca DL, Senna-Fernandes V, Cortez CM, et al. Tension neck syndrome treated by acupuncture combined with physiotherapy: A comparative clinical trial (pilot study). Complement Ther Med. 2008;16:268-277.
Last reviewed April 2009 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Copyright © 2007 EBSCO Publishing All rights reserved.