Neck physical therapy is one of the most common and popular treatments for acute and chronic neck pain. Most physical therapy programs for neck pain focus on applying treatments to reduce pain and stiffness and following a physical therapy session that aims to strengthening and stretching of the neck. The specific methods and exercises used in physical therapy along with the duration of the treatment plan depend from one patient to another.
Conditions Neck Physical Therapy Can Help With:
Postural Neck Pain
Most of the neck pain cases arise due to poor postures. In such cases, recognizing and understanding the underlying problem can play a useful role in providing neck pain relief to patients. Poor neck posture, like forward head posture or being hunched over a computer can increase stress on the cervical spine causing neck pain along with other symptoms.
A herniated disc occurs when the soft, jelly-like substance inside the disc escapes that compresses the nerve roots and irritates the surrounding nerve. Tears in the tough outer shell of the disc may lead to a herniation. The symptoms of a herniated disc are – weakness, numbness, a burning sensation, or electrical shock sensation.
A bulging disc is a common spine injury related to the intervertebral disc. It can occur in the lumbar spine, thoracic spine, or cervical spine. A bulging disc condition is also commonly referred to as a slipped disc or a protruding disc.
Spinal stenosis is a condition in which the spaces within the spine narrow down that put pressure on the nerves that run through the spine. Spine stenosis occurs most often in the neck and lower back and is more common among adults – above 50 and older.
Also commonly known as cervical spondylosis, neck arthritis refers to age-related wear and tear that occur over time. This gives rise to pain and stiffness in the neck with symptoms when turning your head or neck or looking upward, including chronic pain, and potential muscle weakness, numbness, stiffness, headaches, and even loss of balance.
Signs & Symptoms of Postural Neck Pain:
- Pain when sitting
- Pain across the back part of your neck
- Muscle tightness
- Muscle spasms
- Muscle stiffness
- Difficulty turning your head in certain directions
- Pain that worsens in certain positions
Signs & Symptoms of A Herniated Disc:
- Pain and numbness on one side of the body
- Pain that extends to arms or legs
- Pain that worsens at night or with certain movements
- Pain that worsens after prolonged sitting or looking down
- Unexplained muscle weakness
- Tingling, aching, or burning sensations in the affected area
Signs & Symptoms of Spinal Stenosis:
- Increase in numbness and tingling with certain movements of the neck
- Numbness and tingling into the arms and hands
- Potential Foot drop
- Tripping (in severe cases)
- Weakness of the muscles in the shoulder, arm, and hand.
Signs & Symptoms of Neck Arthritis
- Neck stiffness and pain
- Numbness or weakness in arms and hands
- Pain that may radiate into the arms
- Popping, cracking, or grinding sounds in the neck
- Numbness or weakness in the legs or feet that may gradually lead to problems with balance
- Muscle spasms in the neck
What Can You Expect With Neck Physical Therapy?
Neck physical therapy can make a big difference if you’ve had the pain for more than 4-6 weeks. Depending on your condition, your physical therapist may suggest you several courses of treatments to help you get your neck muscles more flexible and mobile. They can also help you with the posture to take the edge off of your neck pain.
Your physical therapy will inquire about your neck pain and various components of your history, including age, weight, weakness, and sensory changes as a patient. It’ll help the therapist to know if a potential
Understanding Your Neck Pain
There might be several reasons for your neck pain, like poor posture, injury, etc. Different parts of the spine could also one of the reasons for neck pain. So, before your therapist signs up for a treatment, it is important for them to understand the underlying cause of your neck pain.
What Makes Your Neck Pain Better or Worse
Various factors, like your body posture, can affect your neck pain. Do you feel pain while sitting or sleeping? Are there poses that make your neck pain worse? Here are some factors that can worsen your back pain:
- Poor posture
- Repetitive motion
- Bad sleep habits
- Gritting your teeth
- Carrying a heavy shoulder bag or purse
- Pinched nerves
- Sports injuries
- Car accidents involving whiplash
How Long Have You Endured?
Unfortunately, some patients endure the neck pain for several years, and it is not until it worsens that they get to know the real cause behind it. Ignorance can convert a regular neck pain into a chronic one. So, your therapist will take account this fact before recommending a treatment.
What Neck Treatments Have You Tried?
Depending on the type of neck pain you have and real cause underlying it, your Doctor of Physical Therapy may recommend specific therapy to you. Once you sign up for physical therapy, the therapist considers all the treatments you have tried, what makes it better or worse, how long you’ve endured, and your goals.
1. Posture Examination
The neck and spine are inspected for any visible injury, or deformity.
2. Range Of Motion Testing
Gross range of neck motion, as well as patient’s shoulder, is tested. Range of motion is the measurement of movement around a particular joint or body part. To have a full range of motion, your neck joint and muscles should have good flexibility. This step may include the use of specific instruments by your doctor.
3. Muscle Strength
This step includes use of muscle strength grading scale which let your physical therapist assess how a muscle is functioning.
4. Detecting the Cause of Your Injury
There may be one or more reasons that cause you neck pain. Your therapist will detect the major causes of injury before s/he determines the most suitable treatment.
5. Functional Testing
The major goal of physical therapy is to help patient function as soon as possible. Functional testing involves different activities to provide a baseline for assessing progress to compare performance
Neck Physical Therapy Treatments:
1. Spinal Traction
Spinal traction is a non- surgical, decompression therapy that relieves pressure on the spine. In this treatment, a constant or intermittent pulling force is applied to the spine to stretch the spine. Traction stretches muscles and ligaments and improves the space between the vertebrae.
2. Neck Exercises
Different sets of exercises are a vital part of physical therapy. Active therapeutic exercise routine helps patient improve mobility and strength as well as prevent the possible future episodes of neck pain. Exercises can be divided into three broad groups – strengthening, stretching, and low-impact aerobics.
3. Patient Education
Unfortunately, very few patients with neck pain receive the right treatment. Patients’ awareness regarding neck and spine issues and pain is crucial for the prevention of this condition.
4. Manual Therapy
Manual therapy techniques comprise a continuum of skilled passive movements to complex and stiff joints at varying speeds. This therapeutic movement intends to restore optimal function, motion, and movability.
5. Spinal Manipulation
Also called spinal manipulative therapy or manual therapy, spinal manipulation combines the practices of physical therapy, massage, exercise, and moving joints. It is performed to relieve pressure on joints, improve nerve function, and reduce inflammation. Spinal manipulation is often used to treat back, neck, and shoulder pain.
6. Neck Stretches
Your physical therapist may suggest you stretching exercise to ease your neck pain. Gentle stretching exercise help alleviates the pain and improves the range of motion.
How To Get Started?
Are you suffering from neck pain? One of our physical therapists can help you with your neck pain?
Call us directly at 239-223-0484, or click here to inquire about cost and appointment availability.