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Manual Therapy for Neck Pain


Topic Overview

Manual therapy includes:

  • Massage, which applies pressure to the soft tissues of the body, such as the muscles.
  • Mobilization, which uses slow, measured movements to twist, pull, or push bones and joints.
  • Manipulation, which uses rapid, thrusting movements to move the bones and joints.

Chiropractors, osteopaths, massage therapists, and physical therapists sometimes use manual treatment.

Manual therapy is sometimes used for neck pain. A review of multiple studies shows that exercise and mobilization, either separate or used together, are likely to be helpful in the treatment of nonspecific neck pain. Manipulation is also likely to be helpful.1

Most manual therapy is safe. But manipulation is not recommended if you have nerve-related problems that are very severe or getting worse.1, 2

Before you try manual therapy for neck pain, think about the following:

  • First, try home treatment, like ice, heat, pain relievers, and mild exercise or stretching. These things may help your neck pain the best.
  • If you have severe pain or your symptoms are getting worse, consider talking to your doctor before you try manipulation.
  • Good manual therapy will include information on self-care and strength exercises.
  • If you choose to see a manual therapist, find one who is willing to work with your other doctors.

Do your research. Not all manual therapy is the same. And there isn't a good way to tell what will be helpful and what won't. Ask your doctor if it is safe for you to get manual therapy. If you decide to try it, talk to a couple of different therapists before you choose and get treated by one.

Related Information

References

Citations

  1. Binder A (2008). Neck pain, search date May 2007. Online version of BMJ Clinical Evidence: http://www.clinicalevidence.com.

  2. McIntosh G, Hall H (2011). Low back pain (acute), search date December 2009. Online version of BMJ Clinical Evidence: http://www.clinicalevidence.com.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerWilliam H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerRobert B. Keller, MD - Orthopedics
Last RevisedFebruary 7, 2012

eMedicineHealth Medical Reference from Healthwise

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