Chiropractors see patients for a variety of reasons including neck pain, back pain, headaches, and even carpal tunnel syndrome, but knowing when to see a chiropractor for neck pain and when diagnosis and treatment from a qualified MD is needed can prove difficult for many. In some cases, the hands-on manipulation carried out during chiropractic is simply inadequate for severe chronic neck pain, or is inappropriate if there are concerns such as spinal tumors, or infection in the spine. The important thing to note is that neck pain, back pain, and headaches should not be a normal part of our daily lives and help should be sought to address these, whether this is through a local chiropractor or other health professional. Where neck pain is interfering with normal daily activities and even keeping you away from work, school, or recreational activities, it is time to consult your health provider.
What Do Chiropractors Do?
After medicine and dentistry, chiropractic is one of the largest regulated health professions and qualified doctors of chiropractic have extensive knowledge of the body and its myriad systems. Chiropractors concentrate on the relationship between the spine, joints, muscles, and the nervous system and can provide accessible, affordable, and non-invasive treatments for neck pain in many cases. Chiropractors make use of traditional diagnostic methods such as X-Rays to assess a person’s health prior to offering treatment and may decide that chiropractic is not appropriate in certain circumstances. The therapy can help to correct postural imbalances and misalignment in the spinal structure which could be causing spinal muscle fatigue, cramps, or spasms, or may be contributing to degeneration of the spine. Where such problems remain unaddressed, the risk of degenerative disc disease, cervical spinal stenosis, and subsequent neck pain are increased, making early intervention highly effective at reducing such risks.
Patients may choose to see a chiropractor for those niggling ailments that they know are due to poor posture at work or at home such as lower back pain, chronic stress and tension in the neck, shoulder and arm pain, and tension headaches. Anyone suffering an acute injury such as an accident at work, a sports injury, or even a problem arising from doing simple household chores is likely to find a trip to the chiropractor beneficial. If you have neck or back pain that persists after three days, recurring headaches and neck pain with shoulder tension, radiating pain such as sciatica, a reduced range of motion in the neck or back, or sleep disturbances due to neck pain, headaches, and muscle spasms, it might be time to see a chiropractor.
When You Need a Doctor, Not a Chiropractor
Chiropractors will most likely refer a patient to their doctor if there are signs of myelopathy such as problems with bowel or bladder control, numbness in the genitals, fever, chills, and other signs of infection, and severe pain that wakes a patient at night. In cases where a ligament sprain, or muscle strain appears to be the cause of neck pain chiropractic treatment is likely to provide excellent results. Signs of nerve compression mean that any treatment should be halted until cleared by a medical doctor however, as manipulation of the spine may lead to serious nerve damage particularly where spinal stenosis is evident. This is rare but has been documented and is the cause of much scaremongering over the dangers of chiropractic treatment. In most cases where ill-effects have resulted from treatment the treatment should not have been carried out in the first place, which is why it is incredibly important to ensure that a chiropractor is qualified and experienced as well as being fully appraised of your medical history prior to any therapy being commenced.
How Effective is Chiropractic?
Extensive reviews of chiropractic treatment trials have found no serious complications when patients are treated for neck adjustments, with a commentary published in the Annals of Internal Medicine in 2002 assessing more than 160 reports and over 73 controlled clinical trials. The risk of stroke or stroke-like symptoms that have been associated with chiropractic neck adjustment appears to be considerably lower than for many pain-relief medications and even the contraceptive pill (such as Yasmin). An incidence of one to two events per million treatments is the generally accepted ratio, making chiropractic treatment appear very safe in contrast to a number of other diagnostic and treatment methods.
Treatment from a chiropractor can be extremely effective for acute back pain and short-lived neck pain, along with helping patients develop good postural habits to avoid problems in the future. It is important to find a qualified chiropractor who you feel comfortable with and most often there is someone who friends and family can recommend in the local area. Otherwise, checking with the local regulatory body can provide you with a list of names and contact details for a chiropractor nearby who may be able to help identify the causes of both chronic and acute neck pain and provide relief. Knowing when to see a chiropractor and when you need a medical doctor can be difficult but doctors and chiropractors often work together to help resolve a patient’s neck pain.