Predicting the course of neck pain under chiropractic care

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Many patients seeking chiropractic care complain of neck pain. However, there has been little research to determine which patients respond more favorably to this treatment. A new study has attempted to determine factors that predicted a positive outcome for patients with neck pain who undergo chiropractic treatment.

The research involved 274 patients with acute neck pain and 255 with chronic neck pain who had not previously undergone chiropractic treatments. They were evaluated at 1 week, 1 month, and 3 months after the start of chiropractic care.

Both groups showed substantial improvement over the course of the study, but the improvement was significantly larger for patients with acute pain. Acute patients reporting improvement 1 week after the start of treatment were 3 times more likely to show improvement at 3 month, while those with chronic neck pain who reported improvement at 1 month were 6 times more likely to report improvement at 3 months.

The most consistent predictor of improvement at 1 and 3 months after treatment was found to be whether they report improvement early in the treatment course. On the other hand, the various demographic details collected by the researchers were not found to be predictive of pain improvement.

While both groups experience pain relief, those with less severe symptoms were more likely to improve. It’s possible that neck-pain patients who fail to improve early on may be susceptible to developing chronic pain and require a modified approach to treatment. But even though acute neck pain patients recovered more quickly, those with chronic symptoms still experienced improvements, suggesting that chiropractic care can still benefit patients with chronic neck pain. Combining chiropractic and exercise treatments could substantially relieve neck pain.

Reference

Peterson CK, Bolton K, Humphreys BK. Predictors of outcome in neck pain patients undergoing chiropractic care: comparison of acute and chronic patients. Chiropractic & Manual Therapies 2012, 20 (27): doi:10.1186/2045-709X-20-27.

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