Conservative treatments for neck pain are standard practice for most patients prior to surgery but what if you want to treat cervical spinal stenosis without surgery using alternative therapies? Is there any evidence to support the use of acupuncture, acupressure, energy therapy, or reflexology? How about yoga for spinal stenosis? When your neck pain is causing you to consider surgery talk to your doctor about the alternatives, they may even be able to refer you to a local therapist.
Neck Pain Symptoms and Signs
Cervical spinal stenosis is the narrowing of the spaces in the spinal column through which nerves and blood vessels pass. When the stenosis becomes severe enough it can cause pinched nerves in the neck and resulting numbness, weakness, pain, and/or altered sensation in the neck itself and in those areas innervated by the trapped nerve. Cranial nerves in the upper regions of the cervical spine can lead to migraines, headaches, and both facial and head pain, as well as jaw pain in some. Cervical spinal stenosis lower down the neck can cause tingling and paraesthesia in the arms and hands, as well as chest pain and even breathing difficulties or tightness in the throat.
Causes of Neck Pain
Oftentimes, cervical symptoms of spinal stenosis are unresponsive to palliative remedies as there is a structural defect at work that requires invasive treatment. However, where cervical spinal stenosis is due to inflammation, poor posture, or even a bulging disc there may be alternative treatment for neck pain that avoid the risks associated with back surgery.
Neck Pain Relief Alternatives
Pain medications including NSAIDs are a mainstay of conservative treatments for neck pain but many patients find that alternative anti-inflammatories such as fish oil, bromelain, and quercetin can help just as much and often without the side-effects of pharmaceuticals. Whilst the American Medical Association does not approve of a number of alternative neck pain remedies there are those which it has noted are worthy of further investigation. The age-old problem is that an alternative remedy becomes a conservative treatment once enough people in the medical establishment get behind it. Thus, chiropractic treatment, cognitive behavioural therapy, and other possible aids for neck pain relief are enjoying a wider audience due to significant research on their benefits.
CAM for Neck Pain
Mindfulness training was recently found to be of benefit to those with rheumatoid arthritis, a potential cause of neck pain, in at least one study, and cognitive behavioral therapy has been found more helpful than some pain medications when treating patients with chronic conditions such as fibromyalgia. However, there is less evidence supporting the use of Reiki, Ayurveda, and traditional Chinese medicine as complementary and alternative medicines (CAM) for neck pain, despite many years of use for pain conditions and other ailments.
Neck Pain Remedies – What Works?
Acupuncture has amassed a significant amount of evidence to support its use in relieving and managing chronic pain, including pain from cervical spinal stenosis, whereas acupressure, which is based on similar principles, has received less attention by the orthodox medical establishment. Vibration therapy for neck pain has little evidence to recommend it and, indeed, may actually be connected to worsening pain in some or even the onset of spinal stenosis according to some research. Similarly, magnetic therapy for neck pain has no supportive evidence of any quality and may do harm by convincing patients to cease other, potentially beneficial therapies.
Yoga for Spinal Stenosis
One ever popular treatment, yoga for spinal stenosis, has enjoyed recent support from a variety of papers published in reputable medical journals, not only for its benefits for the posture and musculoskeletal strength and tone but also for the cognitive and emotional benefits it brings to many. Practicing yoga for cervical spinal stenosis and neck pain does mean making sure to avoid any potentially exacerbating poses and working with a suitably qualified and experienced instructor.
When Neck Surgery Is Inevitable
Unfortunately, there will be patients for whom conservative and alternative therapies for neck pain simply do not provide enough benefit and neck surgery may become the only option. Chronic symptoms that persist for months and are resistant to other treatments will often prompt an assessment for cervical spine surgery, especially where symptoms are progressing and there is potential for permanent nerve damage or spinal cord involvement. Patients at this stage are encouraged to obtain a second, or even third opinion as there is always a risk with surgery of making the condition worse, and/or suffering complications. Of course, if spine surgery is to go ahead there are often things a patient can do to better prepare for their operation and recovery, including the use of alternative therapies for neck pain while they heal.