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The fourth most common cause of chronic disability in the US is neck pain. It can be a result of injury or a structural deformity of the neck vertebrae, or it can result from a poor posture or persistent stress. It can also be caused by accidents in drivers who have been rear-ended, wherein the neck pain is of a whiplash kind. Whatever be the reason, chronic neck pain can seriously hamper the quality of life of the affected individual, and have a telling effect on his psychological well-being.
Grades of neck pain
In 2008, a Neck Pain Task Force, comprising of 50 people from nine countries, did a systematic review of the studies available on neck pain. They recommended four grades of neck pain, namely:
- Grade I: Neck pain that has little or no impact on daily activities.
- Grade II: Neck pain that hampers daily activities to a certain degree.
- Grade III: Neck pain which is associated with a pinched nerve, a condition called as radiculopathy. This leads to pain, weakness and numbness of arm
- Grade IV: Neck pain associated with serious conditions like tumors, fractures, systemic diseases or infections.
The task force came to the conclusion that exercise and strengthening are the best methods to deal with neck pain.
Instead, depending up on the severity of the pain- whether it is mild or severe, different types of treatments may be beneficial for different kinds of pain.
The researchers did a meta-analysis of 10 randomized controlled trials and drew a conclusion that:
- For recent neck pain of grade I or II, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and acetaminophen are good bets. Unsupervised range of exercises that help in neck movement and manual therapy are also equally effective in dealing with this kind of pain.
- For recent neck pain of grade III, use of cervical collar and undergoing supervised graded strengthening exercises produce similar results, and is helpful in relieving the pain.
- In case of persistent neck pain and whiplash associated disorders (WAD) of grade I and II, supervised qigong and Iyengar yoga were found to be more effective than home exercise. Exercises that combine range of motility, flexibility and strengthening provide better results in this type of pain.
Qigong is a component of Chinese medicine involving meditation, controlled breathing and movement exercises. “Qi” means breath and practicing qigong ensures a smooth flow of “qi” to all body parts to activate self-healing processes. The gentle rhythmic movements of Qigong help in reducing stress, building stamina, and enhancing the immune system. Qigong is also effective in relieving muscular stiffness and pain.
Iyengar Yoga is a form of Hatha yoga which emphasizes on posture and breath control.
Iyengar yoga also helps in dealing with emotions and psychological issues which may be the cause behind stress. It is believed that stress is an important contributing factor for pain.