A review of a randomised trial from Annals for Internal Medicine

Volume 156 • Number 1 (Part 1) – published 3rd January 2012

A recent study, published on 3rd January by Annals for Internal Medicine has shown that seeing a chiropractor or engaging in light exercise can relieve neck pain more effectively than relying on pain medication.

Moderate and acute neck pain is one of the most frequent reasons for trips to a primary care doctor, prompting millions of visits every year. For patients, knowing who to see and what to do can be a difficult problem to navigate. In some cases the pain and stiffness crop up without explanation, and treatment options are varied. Physical therapy, pain medication and spinal manipulation are popular options, but Dr. Bronfort was inspired to carry out an analysis because so little research exists.

“There was a void in the scientific literature in terms of what the most helpful treatments are,” he said.

Study Results

After 12 weeks, the people in the non-medication groups did significantly better than those taking the drugs. About 57 percent of those who met with chiropractors and 48 percent who did the exercises reported at least a 75 percent reduction in pain, compared to 33 percent of the people in the medication group.

A year later, when the researchers checked back in, 53 percent of the subjects who had received spinal manipulation still reported at least a 75 percent reduction in pain, similar to the exercise group. That compared to just a 38 percent pain reduction among those who had been taking medication.


Although this study does highlight the fantastic benefits of Chiropractic and rehabilitative exercise, it should not be misinterpreted as a study against the use of medication. Medication does have its place in controlling pain and in some cases can give the body the space it needs to heal itself. The key message to take from this study however is that medication may reduce the symptoms of neck pain, but the underlying cause of the problem may remain unchanged, resulting in a lack of significant long term improvement. However, both Chiropractic adjustments and exercises have the ability to improve the biomechanics of the neck, ultimately leading to better function and less pain.

Should you be suffering from any discomfort, muscle aches, back pain, neck or shoulder pain, sciatica or any joint or muscle pain then contact Espina Chiropractic Clinic to find out more about how we may be able to help improve your health.