How a trained physical therapist can help relieve your discomfort
Neck pain is a very common ailment. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, 1 in 3 people per year are affected, and it’s more common within the aging population.
When neck discomfort persists for at least three months, it is considered a chronic condition. If you’re suffering from chronic neck pain, it’s time to seek treatment.
Causes of chronic neck pain
There are many possible causes of chronic neck pain, but here are some of the most common:
- Sitting at a desk or looking at a computer for long periods can cause muscle strain, as your monitor may be too high or too low and compromise your posture.
- Other types of poor postures, such as hunching your shoulders forward
- Osteoarthritis or Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Contact sports, such as football or soccer
- An injury from a fall
- Whiplash, forceful rapid back and forth movement of the neck, commonly caused by a rear-end car accident
- Sleeping in an awkward position
- Nerve compression from herniated disks or bone spurs in the vertebrae of your neck
- Spondylolisthesis, a condition that occurs when one vertebra slips over the one below it
- Rarely, neck pain is caused by something serious such as a spinal tumor, meningitis, or cancer.
Creating a neck pain treatment plan
An experienced physical therapist should be able to create a comprehensive treatment plan tailored for you that includes exercises, some of which will be accomplished during office visits and some of which will be part of an at-home regiment.
Passive therapies are another important component of a physical therapy treatment regime. The goal of physical therapy is to relieve your pain and increase the range of motion, comfortability, and strength while preventing further injury or strain.
Your therapist will carefully monitor your progress and review your treatment goals regularly, adjusting them as he or she learns what has been advantageous for you and how you’re responding to therapy.
Passive therapies for neck pain
Several passive therapies can help alleviate neck pain. Applying ice helps reduce pain and swelling. Heat can also be beneficial, as it increases blood flow and loosens stiff muscles.
Manipulating soft tissue through hands-on massage is an effective way to loosen and relax muscles and increase blood flow to reduce pain and stiffness and promote feelings of well-being.
Electrotherapy uses a device to send a mild electrical current via wires to the area on your neck that is injured or painful. During this process, your physical therapist will place small sticky pads with electrodes at or near the tender spot. A battery-operated unit then sends a series of low-voltage electrical currents to the area.
Ultrasound, another type of passive physical therapy, uses pulses of sound waves to penetrate tissues. This has a warming effect that relaxes muscles and reduces pain. Ultrasound therapy also causes expansion and contraction in tiny gas bubbles in soft tissues, which decreases the inflammatory response.
Active therapies for neck pain
When beginning a treatment regimen, active therapy exercises may be as simple as working moving your head from one side to the other, up and down, or side to side. Neck and shoulder rolls and shoulder shrugs can help train the muscles that attach directly to the cervical spine.
Exercises to maintain and improve core strength — which depends on the stability of the muscles of your abdomen, back, and buttocks — can help prevent your neck and shoulder muscles from being overworked, thus reducing neck pain.
Among those exercises are side bends, seated twists, and head lifts, and light weight-lifting, such as anterior and lateral raises and seated overhead presses. South Orange Rehabilitation and Wellness provides hands-on, personalized physical therapy in a warm and friendly environment with flexible office hours. We can help create an individualized therapy plan to address chronic neck pain or any other physical therapy needs. For more information, contact us!