This is a guest post from Clare Barry M.Ed., our clinic manager of Avalon Laser Health Physiotherapy & Wellness. The clinic specializes in the treatment of acute and chronic pain with laser therapy.
There is a reason we use the expression “a pain in the neck” to refer to a person or situation that is a nuisance! Neck pain has an insidious way of creeping into one’s awareness and interfering with your quality of life. In fact, 45% of the population will have neck pain at some point in their life.
Neck pain has high costs for the individual, the workplace, and society. Many will experience the negative effects of neck pain on their quality of life: loss of function, absenteeism from work, difficulty sleeping, and inability to enjoy everyday activities. Let's look at what to do about it...
Our necks bear the burden of supporting the head through its myriad functions throughout our lives. The delicate bones of the cervical column (neck) carries approximately 8% of the body’s weight and manages to pivot and nod repeatedly in our normal everyday activities. Over time the repeated trauma, stress, wear and tear of everyday activities causes degenerative changes in the cervical spine. Often, small injuries that seem to have no symptoms at the time have a cumulative effect on the deterioration of the spine and lead to chronic neck pain later in life.
Some of the risk factors for chronic neck pain are work related— job pressure, work overload, and sedentary or repetitive work positions. Other risk factors include age, gender, heredity and degenerative changes in the cervical spine like osteoarthritis or degenerative disc disease.
The Bone and Joint Decade 2000–2010 Task Force on Neck Pain and its Associated Disorders reported several important findings about neck pain. Although most people will experience neck pain at some point in their lives, the consequences are not long-standing for the majority. The number of motor-vehicle related whiplash injuries has increased steadily over the last thirty years. The effects of neck pain are felt deeply in the workplace, where every year 11–14.1% of workers report that their activities are limited by neck pain. Despite our best efforts, there is little evidence that workplace interventions are effective in reducing neck pain in the workplace.
Unfortunately, most cases of chronic or acute neck pain are not fully resolved with conventional therapeutic treatment. Most patients—50–85%—will suffer a recurrence within five years. The Task Force recommended neck-pain therapy approaches that focus on keeping the injured area mobile and encouraged a quick return to work policy. The specific treatments most associated with successful outcomes include education, mobilization, manual therapy and low intensity laser therapy.
A growing body of research supports low-intensity laser therapy for the treatment of neck pain. In the 2009 Lancet review of clinical trials and research, Dr Roberta Chow et al concluded that laser therapy is an effective therapy for both acute and chronic pain conditions producing immediate results for acute pain and lasting benefits for chronic neck pain. Laser therapy is non-toxic and safe with no adverse effects; it delivers consistent, effective and reproducible results.
Dr. Mary Dyson, Emeritus Professor of Physiology at King's College, London, England described how laser therapy works: "LILT provides a jump-start to the body's natural healing process." She adds that it “delivers energy to the tissues that is transformed into biochemical energy. This results in increased blood supply and accelerated healing time." Laser therapy stimulates changes at the cellular level that reduce pain and inflammation and increase range of motion to promote a speedy return to normal activities.
For lasting treatment benefits, it is important to keep the area of injury mobile. While laser therapy is our clinic's go-to for accelerated healing, the underlying cause of injury often needs to be treated for lasting results. Client education, manual therapy, exercise therapy all play an important role in getting you moving and maintaining your active lifestyle.
If neck pain becomes a factor in your life or workplace, seek treatment promptly, ideally with a combination of laser and physio therapy. Those who have the most successful outcomes address the problem head-on with therapy and build a maintenance plan into their lives.
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