Neck pain is a common problem, and one that tends to affect more women than men. But how are you going to treat it? The three most popular options are: your family doctor (a 'wait-and-see' approach with advice on ergonomics, possibly including painkillers), a physiotherapist (exercise and stretching) or manual therapy (massage and manipulation, as practised by an osteopath or chiropractor).
To find out which approach was the most effective, researchers from the University Medical Centre in Amsterdam recruited 183 people who had their neck pain for at least two weeks. Each was assigned to one of the three therapies - and the osteopaths and chiropractors were the most effective (by a short neck?) They achieved the quickest results during the first six months of treatment, although all three produced much the same outcome by the end of a year.
So, if you're prepared to be patient and to put up with the pain in the meantime, the 'wait-and-see' approach is as good as any. If not, go and see an osteopath or chiropractor as soon as possible.
(Source: British Medical Journal, 2003; 326: 911-4).