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When we hear the term “whiplash injury,” we likely think of car crashes, though whiplash can result from other causes, like a fall or sports collision. Though whiplash is associated with a variety of symptoms, neck pain with lower pain thresholds (called central sensitization) is one of the most common. Neck pain can also occur in the absence of trauma or a known pathology. This is called mechanical neck pain (MNP).
Past research has shown that the combination of manual therapies (including mobilization and manipulation) and neck-specific exercises can benefit patients with neck pain, but is there a different treatment response between whiplash patients and MNP patients?
A 2017 study evaluated this very question. The authors recruited 28 patients with either grade I or II whiplash (pain with or without exam findings but no neurological losses) and 22 MNP patients. The patients in the MNP group were only included if their symptoms could be provoked by changes in cervical posture, neck movement, and palpation of certain neck muscles. The research team measured neck pain intensity, neck-related disability, pain area, cervical range of motion, and pressure pain thresholds (the amount of pressure measured to induce pain using a spring-loaded pressure gauge) both initially at baseline and again after six treatment sessions.
The results showed that whiplash sufferers initially had significantly higher pain-related disability, larger pain area, and central sensitization. In spite of this, the investigators observed that after six treatments, the patients in both groups achieved similar improvements with respect to cervical range of motion (flexion/extension, left/right side bending, and rotation), neck pain intensity, neck pain-related disability, pain area, and pressure point thresholds. However, the whiplash patients continued to experience a lower pain threshold than participants in the MNP group.
The good news for whiplash patients is that another 2017 study demonstrated that treating painful myofascial trigger points can help restore pain thresholds. Doctors of chiropractic frequently utilize the two treatment approaches from this study—manual therapy and specific neck exercises—in addition to other management approaches to achieve successful outcomes for patients with neck pain, either whiplash or MNP.
You may wonder, “Do I need an MRI scan of my neck.”
Some people will try stretching first to see if they get relief from their neck pain. A pulled muscle generally will get better with rest. Persistent or worsening pain intensity and/or frequency necessitates a visit to see a professional.
Call me, Dr. Tim Harcourt, at (239) 278-3344 or stop by on your day off for a walk in visit and mention this article for an awesome discounted first visit to include history, exam, and adjustment or Class IV high-intensity laser treatment. So if you find yourself experiencing neck pain that is affecting your quality of life and allowing you to enjoy Fort Myers Beach. Come see us at Coast Chiropractic Centers located on 7270 College Parkway.
If you would like to avoid getting neck pain in the first place or to take a proactive approach to your health and wellness, our membership program called Club C may be just the thing for you with great cost savings, convenience, and even more importantly, a plan to get your health back and keep it.
Don't let neck pain stop you from enjoying the beautiful SWFL! Dr. Tim Harcourt is here to give you the relief you need.
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