Neck pain affects almost two-thirds of people at some time in their lives. If that pain lasts longer than three months, it is considered chronic. Both chiropractic and physical therapy offer conservative approaches for treating this condition. Conservative care is appropriate as long as you do not have pain, numbness or weakness in your arms or hands. If you have those problems, consult with your doctor.
Chiropractic and Chronic Neck Pain
Chiropractic therapy focuses on restriction in joint mobility, especially the joints of the spine. Treatment is primarily the chiropractic adjustment, a manipulation treatment to improve or restore mobility in those joints. Chiropractic therapy offers a drug-free approach, is available without a referral and is covered by some health insurance plans.
Physical Therapy and Chronic Neck Pain
Physical therapy focuses on mobility, coordinated muscle activity, appropriate neck muscle strength/endurance, posture and education. The goal is for you to leave physical therapy with the tools necessary to self-manage and improve your neck pain. In almost all states, patients have direct access to physical therapy -- that is, you do not need to see a physician first unless your health plan requires it. Many health care plans cover physical therapy.
Sometimes both of these approaches can be combined in one setting. Some chiropractic centers use exercise as a part of treatment. Also, some physical therapy centers employ chiropractors to do manipulation, and some physical therapists are qualified to do manipulation. Team approaches can increase the likelihood that you receive care that provides relief for your condition.
Cautions for Neck Pain
Chronic neck pain is associated with a wide range of possible causes, including poor posture, depression, neck strain, and occupational or sports injuries. Different treatments therefore may or may not work for your particular neck pain. What's more, some neck problems, such as those caused by disc herniation, infection and malignancies, won't typically be helped by chiropractic or physical therapy. If you have ongoing pain or worsening pain, or if you have symptoms affecting your arms or hands, seek the advice of your doctor.