Discovering Lasting Relief For Neck And Shoulder Pain Now
Over 100 million patients a year report experiencing pain conditions, yet only 51 % of those people discover lasting relief. Because medications tend to deal with symptoms rather than going after the underlying source of pain, pain that could have been eliminated often develops into a chronic nature.
If neck and shoulder pain are keeping you from enjoying the activities you love most or interfering with your daily life, an integrative, comprehensive approach could get you back on track. Whether you've experienced a recent injury or you have a long-lasting chronic problem, we hope this guide will help you choose the professional treatment option that is right for you.
- Physical Therapy:
PROS: A good PT will offer medical massage to release trigger points in the surrounding muscles of the neck, and then lead you through a series of exercises in order to re-align the spine and stop your pain. You will be given a series of exercises to do at home in order to prevent relapse. Also, insurance usually covers it, so it can be a cost-effective option if you have a policy.
CONS: Many people need a referral from an MD before seeing a PT in order for their insurance to cover the sessions. In all cases, there are limits placed on who can provide PT without a referral. Physical Therapy can take a lot of visits to be effective. Also, some people feel the PT exercises can be painful. It is common for people to have trouble maintaining the exercise regimen at home. Lastly, there are many different types of Physical Therapy practices (eg orthopedic, postoperative care, cardiovascular and pulmonary rehab, and many more), so you have to be sure that your PT specializes in injuries (hint: go to the orthopedist one).
PROS: A good chiropractor will gently adjust the vertebrae of the spine to get them back in alignment and use some form of massage therapy to release the trigger points in the surrounding muscles.
CONS: If your insurance doesn???t cover chiropractic, it can be expensive. Also, it can be intimidating to let someone ???crack??? your neck. The truth is that chiropractic is generally considered very safe and painless, but still some people can???t get that image out of their minds.
- Pain Management Doctor (MD)
PROS: Treatments tend to stop pain very quickly. Cortisone shots (for example) can stop neck and shoulder pain within hours of taking it (average is 48 - 72 hours, for many people it???s faster than that). Insurance coverage may make this an affordable option.
CONS: Treatments are very symptom-based, with no attention paid to larger cause of the problem. This makes it common for symptoms to come back. Many pain killing medications can be habit forming and/or expensive. In the case of cortisone injections (very common for neck pain if arthritis or inflammation is suspected) the symptoms often come back within weeks, and there is a limit to how many cortisone shots you can take due to the risk of side effects.
- Medical Massage Therapy
Massage therapy effectively releases trigger points, taking pressure off the cervical spine. Another big plus of massage is that there is therapeutic value in actually being touched by another person in a professional, safe setting. We often don???t like to talk about this in our society, but the fact is that many times chronic pains bring about large emotional responses, and a good massage therapists is trained in how to help you recover from both your physical and emotional pain through movement. The downside is that massage therapy may not provide enough lasting relief by itself (it is most often used in concert with physical therapy, acupuncture or chiropractic) and it can be painful to release trigger points manually. Most people experience a lot of pain relief after massage, but it may not be comfortable during the session.
PROS: A good acupuncturist provides a safe and effective treatment for both acute and chronic pain without surgery or drugs. Using very thin needles in place of a therapist???s hands allows an acupuncturist to more fully resolve muscle knots in less time that physical therapy. Modern acupuncturists are well versed in both traditional and contemporary views of the body, which allow them to see problems from multiple perspectives. This flexibility allows acupuncturists to treat very complex problems that other therapies cannot. Lastly, acupuncture is able to relieve pain in one part of the body by putting thin needles in a very different part. A good example of this is that there are excellent points for neck pain on your achilles tendons near your feet. So if your neck is very sensitive and you can???t bear to have someone touch it, an acupuncturist is still able to help you, when nobody else really can.
CONS: Some people are just deathly afraid of needles, and no matter what you say about how thin the needles are (about the width of a human hair!) they are still freaked out at the thought. Acupuncture is also rarely covered by insurance, so the out of pocket cost can be high, depending on where you go. If your problem requires joint alignment, acupuncture alone may not be enough, so be sure to go to a place that incorporates medical massage therapy (often called Tui Na) with acupuncture. Lastly, acupuncture can seem ???weird??? or ???new age-y??? and some people are not comfortable with that aspect of it.