Neck pain and headaches are a leading cause of pain and suffering that affects hundreds of millions of seniors worldwide. Until recently, the use of chiropractic care for elderly adults with headaches and/or neck pain has been poorly understood. Let’s investigate the effectiveness of chiropractic care for the elderly who are affected with these conditions.
Questionnaires completed by 288 doctors of chiropractic revealed that close to a third (28.5%) of their caseload are patients over the age of 65, of which 45.5% presented with neck pain and 31.3% had co-morbid headache. For these patients, treatment typically consisted of a combination of physical (exercise training, traction, e-stim and/or ultrasound) and manual therapy treatments (spinal manipulation, mobilization, soft tissue therapies, and/or massage) applied to the thoracic and cervical spinal regions. On average, patients required nine visits to achieve a satisfactory outcome; however, migraine patients usually required two additional visits, on average.
The authors concluded that the chiropractors surveyed used well-established conservative techniques to effectively manage neck pain the elderly population. Additionally, the researchers note that 82% of the patients in the study utilized at least one additional health service to help manage their condition.
A 2017 collaborative study between the World Health Organization (WHO) and the “Lifting the Burden” campaign emphasized the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration in the management of patients with headaches. Indeed, the study cited that patients have a “clear preference” for the use of complementary and alternative treatments for headaches, of which spinal manipulation is listed as a highly effective treatment strategy. Other studies have noted that chiropractors are one of the most common provider types for patients with migraines, and nearly a third of such patients seek out chiropractic care.
While this article mainly focuses on chiropractic care for the management of neck pain and headache in older adults, patients of all ages can benefit from a multimodal approach that includes manual therapies, specific exercises, nutrition recommendations, etc. to restore normal motion to the neck, shoulders, and upper back to reduce pain and disability.