To Your Health
September, 2008 (Vol. 02, Issue 09)
A Pain in the Neck
By John Hanks, DC
Far too often, people attribute neck pain to stress and take medication to mask the symptoms. Sound familiar? Fortunately, if you're a chiropractic patient, you know there's a better, safer way.
My neck feels OK right now. I can turn my head left and right and down and back. (Well, that bending back thing actually doesn't feel very good right now.) So, maybe my neck does get a little annoying sometimes. But I have no idea when this periodic discomfort started.
Sound familiar? You're not alone. A report published earlier this year in the medical journal Spine revealed many people are often a little hazy on when their neck pain started. This monumental study, sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO), started about seven years ago. WHO launched the Bone and Joint Decade and assigned a special task force the job of reviewing all the research about neck and associated disorders, and then evaluating the best treatment options. They reviewed 31,878 citations, 1,203 reviewed papers and four research projects - it makes me tired just thinking about it.
Sure enough, most people often don't remember when their neck discomfort or pain really got started. Researchers concluded, "There is usually no single cause of neck pain." Unless you have had an injury to your neck like "whiplash" from an auto accident, neck pain usually sneaks up on you. The study notes neck pain is quite common, and most people simply carry on with their activities of daily living. However, about 5 percent to 10 percent of people develop debilitating symptoms. Unfortunately, even among those folks who do not have disabling pain, the majority find their neck pain is stubborn and recurrent to some degree.
The task force also came up with a new classification of neck pain, which seems to be one of those things researchers like to do. They suggested four grades of neck problems, no matter whether it comes from injury, arthritis or any other cause. To paraphrase:
Grade I: Neck pain that doesn't interfere with living.
Grade II: Neck pain that does significantly interfere with living.
Grade III: Neck pain associated with a "pinched nerve," causing radiating pain, weakness or numbness in the arm.
Grade IV: Neck pain associated with tumors, infections, fractures and other serious conditions.
As you might guess, most neck discomfort is Grade I and II. However, what was quite gratifying from the task force report was the acknowledgement of what doctors of chiropractic already know: "Cervical manipulation is a reasonable option for people with Grade I or II neck pain."