Best Treatment for Neck and Back Pain: NSAIDs v Acupuncture v Chiropractic

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When you are experiencing ongoing neck and back pain, you may be willing to try anything to alleviate your distracting and debilitating discomfort. While over-the-counter NSAIDs give temporary relief, other treatments may promise more permanent results. It is difficult to know which treatment is best for you, but it may help to compare the three most popular treatments by looking at the research. Following are the results of three studies comparing the efficacy of NSAIDs, acupuncture and chiropractic manipulation in relieving neck and back pain.

The first controlled study included 115 patients who were randomly assigned one of the three treatment options to relieve chronic pain. Data gleaned feedback questionnaires was gathered at two, five, and nine weeks during the treatment period. Results revealed that patients treated with chiropractic manipulation experienced the best overall improvements in back pain at nine weeks.

A follow-up study using the same patient group two years later showed that only patients who had received chiropractic manipulation in the initial study had maintained long-term improvements in their spinal pain and reduced disability.

A third study used a pilot group of 77 patients complaining of chronic spinal pain who were also separated into three treatment groups and once again received either NSAIDs, acupuncture, or chiropractic manipulation. Treatment continued for four weeks, and again questionnaires were used to record changes in levels of pain and disability. After 30 days, the patients treated with chiropractic manipulation reported significant reduction in pain and improvement in physical ability.

Finally, the most impressive outcomes came from a study conducted in 2008 by International Bone and Joint Decade 2000-2010 Task Force on Neck Pain. They classified patients experiencing spinal pain into one of four categories: Group 1: Neck pain that did not interfere with activities of daily living (ADL); Group 2: Neck pain limiting ADL; Group 3: Neck pain with a pinched nerve, causing radiating arm pain; Group 4: Neck pain in addition to other serious diseases like cancer, or conditions like fractures or infections. They concluded that chiropractic manipulation was effective in relieving pain, especially in Groups 1 and 2.

The results of these studies suggest that chiropractic manipulation is a superior treatment for severe and debilitating back pain, both in the short term and over the long run. Increasingly, chiropractic care is being incorporated as an alternative therapy for pain within physicians groups who take a team approach to patient care.