Neck pain is one of the most common types of spinal-related pain. It can be caused by trauma (such as a car accident), poor posture, or normal wear and tear. Here are four non-invasive, non-addictive treatments that can relieve your neck pain:
1. Chiropractic Adjustment
Chiropractors are trained in several adjustment methods that can gently realign the vertebrae of the neck (the cervical spine). Chiropractic adjustment has an excellent safety record and has been proven effective for neck pain. Most patients see lasting results after receiving regular chiropractic adjustments over several weeks or months.
Your chiropractor can take X-rays to pinpoint the exact cause of your neck pain. If you’ve been in an accident or spent years hunching forward over a desk, you may have lost some of the natural curve in your cervical spine. If this is the case, your chiropractor may use gentle stretching exercises in addition to adjustments to help correct the spinal curve.
You may have osteoarthritis in your cervical spine or a problem with one of your discs (cushy fluid-filled structures that sit between your vertebrae). Osteoarthritis and disc problems can also be treated in your chiropractor’s office, but he or she may recommend spinal decompression therapy or other complementary treatments along with or instead of adjustment.
No matter your diagnosis, home care will also be a part of your treatment plan. Your chiropractor will instruct you on stretches, exercises, and lifestyle adjustments you can make that will aid your healing process.
2. Trigger Point Therapies
Trigger points are tender areas of tight tissue that can cause pain and stiffness. One of the fastest ways to alleviate chronic pain is to treat these trigger points directly. Trigger point therapies are a complementary treatment that should be used alongside other treatments. If the cervical spine is misaligned, trigger points will continue to form. Treating the spine itself with adjustment or other therapies will lead to lasting relief but might not relieve pain right away. This is where trigger point therapies come in.
There are several types of trigger point treatments, including certain types of massage, dry needling, and trigger point injections. Which treatment you choose may depend on how severe your trigger point pain is and your comfort level with needles.
Trigger point injections can effectively treat severe trigger point pain by injecting the trigger point with a local anesthetic or corticosteriod. Dry needling uses a small acupuncture-like needle that does not inject fluid. The needle is inserted into trigger points to stimulate the body to release pain-fighting chemicals and increase blood flow to the area.
Several massage techniques can be used to break up active and latent trigger points. During a trigger point massage, the therapist will apply pressure directly to the trigger points that are bothering you. They may also massage surrounding areas to find trigger points that may be causing referred pain.
Massage is a very effective treatment for trigger points because it can relax surrounding tissues and stimulate blood flow. Many patients notice an increased range of motion after a trigger point massage. Receiving them regularly along with chiropractic adjustment can also reduce headaches brought on by neck problems and shoulder tension.
3. Laser Therapy
Cold laser therapy is another complementary treatment for neck pain that can speed healing and provide quick pain relief. A cold laser (a laser that doesn’t cut) works on a cellular level to bring blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the damaged tissue. It reduces pain and swelling and promotes tissue regeneration.
Problems with the cervical spine can put a strain on soft tissues and ligaments, causing further injury. In addition to correcting spinal problems, a treatment to promote soft tissue healing is often needed. Many treatment providers will recommend cold laser therapy alongside chiropractic adjustment.
Most patients notice some pain relief and increased range of motion after one treatment. Laser therapy promotes natural healing. The body takes time to complete the healing process, so you will likely need a series of laser therapy treatments before you experience lasting results. The procedure is pain-free and quick, usually under twenty minutes. Many patients report that they feel better after every treatment.
4. Natural Anti-inflammatories
Inflammation is the cause of most pain, including pain from osteoarthritis and other musculoskeletal issues. Inflammation has also been implicated as a factor in many other health conditions, including heart disease, cancer, and depression. Several natural supplements have been proven to fight inflammation and reduce pain. These supplements are safe for most people, but you should check with your doctor before taking them, especially if you have a bleeding disorder or take other medications.
Omega-3 fatty Acids
The best source of Omega-3’s is fish oil. Fish oil capsules are a convenient way to boost your omega-3 intake. Fish oil supplementation has been clinically proven to help arthritis pain and other chronic pain conditions. In one study of 250 patients with pain from degenerative disc disease, 59% of participants were able to take fish oil instead of over-the-counter NSAIDs to treat their pain. Ask your healthcare provider to recommend a good quality fish oil supplement. The dosage will depend on the potency of the supplement and the condition you are treating.
Turmeric is an herb related to ginger that has been shown to decrease inflammation throughout the body. Scientists think that curcumin is the chemical in turmeric that is responsible for its anti-inflammatory properties. Unfortunately, curcumin is difficult for the human body to absorb. When choosing a turmeric supplement, look for one that has black pepper. Piperine, a chemical in black pepper, greatly increases the absorbability of curcumin. Most people see results with turmeric when they take 400-600 mg of a high-quality supplement three times per day.
Other supplements such as zinc, frankincense, and Sam-e have also been used successfully to reduce musculoskeletal pain. Talk to your health care provider about what supplement may be best for you.