While multiple studies show chiropractic is effective for neck pain, how long can patients expect to see improvements after starting chiropractic treatments can vary widely. Previous research has analyzed the prognosis of patients with neck under chiropractic care, but a literature review from 2008 sought to determine to what extent a single session of manual therapy achieves in reduce neck pain. The review analyzed the existing research on how a single spinal adjustment affected patients’ experience with pain.
The systematic analysis examined change scores in patients with chronic neck pain (without headache, arm pain, or whiplash), in randomized clinical trials involving a single session of manual therapy. Nine relevant trials were identified. Six involved spinal manipulation, four involved spinal mobilization or non-manipulative manual therapy, and one used manual trigger point therapy.
After reviewing the studies, the authors concluded that there is moderate to high evidence that immediate, clinically significant improvements are seen after a single session of spinal adjustments. The average change in pain score was -18.9, providing some indication of the magnitude of change that can be expected from a single session of spinal adjustments. The evidence for spinal mobilization and manual trigger point therapy is less substantial, with fewer studies reporting smaller changes.
Research suggests that combining chiropractic adjustments of the spine with exercise therapy may produce the most substantial results.
Written By Megan Churchwell
Vernon H, Humphreys BK. Chronic mechanical neck pain in adults treated by manual therapy: a systemic review of change scores in randomized controlled trials of a single session. The Journal of Manual and Manipulative Therapy 2008; 16(2): E42–E52.