Unproven treatments are overused to treat neck pain

December 21, 2010

Diagnostic testing, narcotics, and questionable treatment modalities appear to be overused for chronic neck pain, while effective treatments such as therapeutic exercise appear to be underused, according to a study in the November issue of Arthritis Care & Research, HealthDay News reported.

Diagnostic testing, narcotics, and questionable treatment modalities appear to be overused for chronic neck pain, while effective treatments such as therapeutic exercise appear to be underused, according to a study in the November issue of Arthritis Care & Research, HealthDay News reported.

Adam P. Goode, PT, of Duke University’s School of Medicine, and colleagues assembled data from a telephone survey of 5,357 North Carolina households in 2006. Researchers analyzed responses for 135 adults aged 21 years and older with chronic neck pain but no low back pain.

Researchers found that spinal radiographs were performed for 45.1% of patients, magnetic resonance imaging for 30.2%, and computed tomography for 24%. Over-the-counter medications (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) were used by 56.3% of patients, while 28.8 % reported taking strong narcotics (morphine, oxycodone), and 23.1% took weak narcotics (codeine, propoxyphene). Many respondents had treatments that have not been proven or have been shown to be of little benefit, such as electrotherapy stimulation, corsets or braces, and massage.

Only 53% had therapeutic exercise instruction, for which there is good evidence of benefit, according to researchers.