While not as prevalent as back pain, neck and head pain still affect a large percentage of the aging population. And similar to the back, tissues of the cervical spine undergo degenerative changes which accumulate over time eventually giving rise to headaches, neck pain and stiffness, as well as dizziness and balance problems.
The Chiropractic Approach to Neck and Head Pain in the Elderly
The chiropractic approach to treating neck and head pain follows a "holistic" type course. The chiropractor is concerned with the patient's personal health goals. This plays an important role in designing an effective treatment plan which results in the wanted outcome. While evaluating the patients' health disorder, the cause as well as all contributing factors which lead to the development of the condition will be sought. Once determined, this information will be combined with the health goals of the individual in order to design the safest and most successful treatment plan. There will also be a careful evaluation to rule out more serious causes of neck and head pain in the aging; tumors, temporal arteritis, infection, etc.
The treatments utilized by chiropractors do not include drugs or surgery. Instead, safe and natural noninvasive methods of healing are utilized. These include spinal adjustive techniques, physical therapies, soft tissue therapies, exercise and stretching programs, diet and nutritional counseling, and lifestyle modifications. As stated above, these therapies are directed towards the root cause of the health condition. The result is safe, fast, effective long-term relief as well as the overall optimization of health and wellness. Treatments which focus solely on symptomatic relief are short lived, ineffective, and lead to patient frustration and dissatisfaction.
The Medical Approach to Neck and Head Pain in the Elderly
While our wish here is not too bad mouth medical doctors, it is a well known fact that the many primary care physicians simply do not understand back pain and lack not only the knowledge and experience, but lack confidence in treating back pain. According to a recent study titled Practitioner Self-confidence and Patient Outcomes in Acute Low Back Pain, chiropractors had significantly stronger self-confidence scores than physicians when it came to treating back pain.
Referrence - Arch Fam Med. 1998;7:223-228.
The majority of medical doctors prescribe (1) prolonged rest, (2) avoidance of exercise, and (3) prescription medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) such as aspirin and Ibuprofen to mask pain and decrease inflammation. The problem with this approach is that although the pain has been artificially lessened with medications, the cause of the pain has not yet been addressed - kind of like cutting the wire to a flashing "low oil" light on your car dash; rather than adding oil to the engine.
- numerous studies show that bed rest is detrimental rather than beneficial; patients can lose their capacity at a rate of 3-7% daily in total rest but can only improve at a rate of 1% per day,
- early motion and mechanical loading stimulate properly aligned, newly formed collagen fibers, promoting synovial fluid diffusion in joints and enhanced local blood flow,
- the use of NSAIDs and analgesics do not focus on increasing function or inhibiting progression of the disease, rather, it simply masks the symptoms of pain; moreover, a recent study has found that many NSAIDs (aspirin, ibuprofen, fenoprofen, sodium salicylate, sodium tometin) actually inhibit the repair processes involved with the articular cartilage of joints... rapid deterioration of joints after long-term NSAID use has been termed "Analgesic Arthropathy" and is essentially deterioration of a joint induced by the use of NSAIDs.
Referrence - Nelson, DC. Top Clin Chiro 1994;1(4):20-29
Referrence - Gottlieb MS, DC. JMPT 1997; 20(6):400-414