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Pain 101: Neck Pain

WHAT IS NECK PAIN?

Pain from the cervical spine can present as pain in the neck, upper shoulders, head (headaches) and even radiating pain or numbness down the arm or into the hand.  Neck pain can be debilitating and is one of the most common reasons why people go to the doctor, miss work or stop participating in activities they enjoy.

Pain 101: Intro To Neck Pain

Are you experiencing pain or problems in your neck? Click on this video to learn more about neck pain and steps you can take to decrease your pain.

WATCH THE VIDEO

the main types of neck pain

Strains or Trauma

Strains or Trauma

Strains, Trauma, or Whiplash may occur with traumatic injury, when the neck moves in an unnatural way, or when unbalanced movements are made repetitively.  Symptoms can range from slight to severe pains, swelling, stiffness and loss of normal motion.

Postural Dysfunction

Postural Dysfunction

Is a common cause of neck and shoulder pain and headaches.  It often leads to muscle pain, stiffness and pain radiating down the arm.  Excessive computer use and jobs requiring long periods of sitting have led to a growing trend in postural dysfunction.

Arthritis/Degeneration

Arthritis/Degeneration

Can develop with age or as the tissue or cartilage which protects the joints wears down.  This can cause painful and stiff movements, limited range of comfortable motion, and catching/locking sensations.

Pinched Nerves

Pinched Nerves

Occur when there is excessive pressure on the nerve leading to weakness, numbness, tingling or pain radiating down the arm or into the hand.

Cervical Headaches

Cervical Headaches

Are a common result of problems in the neck or from postural dysfunction.  The majority of headaches are actually due to problems in the cervical spine.  This can present as pain in the base of the skull or tension in the shoulders and head.

Postural Dysfunction

Postural Dysfunction

Is a common cause of neck pain.  The increased use of computers and extended periods of sitting often leads to muscle imbalances such as tightness in the chest and shoulders and weakness in the neck and postural muscles. This can lead to muscle and joint irritation and significant neck pain.

what can you do about your neck pain?

The solution to your neck pain depends on the source of your pain and the type of injury you may have sustained. The first step is to consult with your doctor and discuss their recommendations for treating the pain in your neck. Your doctor may recommend restrictions on specific activities, medication and/or physical therapy. You can try the following steps now to help alleviate your pain.
1

Rest

It is important when you are experiencing neck pain to limit movements that cause pain and rest so that your neck can heal.

2

Cold Packs

Apply a cold pack to your neck to help with your pain and decrease irritation and inflammation in the joints and muscles. To prevent damage to skin and surrounding tissue, cold packs should only be applied in 15 minute intervals

3

Stretch

If you don’t have increased pain with movement, stretching and increasing the range of motion of your neck and shoulders can help loosen up your muscles and decrease the pain.

4

Physical Therapy

Physical therapy consists of hands-on treatment to loosen muscles and joints, education/training on proper posture and movement to decrease pain, instruction on stretching and strengthening exercises to restore mobility and strength, and modalities such as electrical stimulation, cold/heat and ultrasound.

exercises for neck pain

Following are a few exercises you can perform that may help alleviate pain. Please go to LIFE+ for more videos that may help you. Please consult your physician before trying these, and stop if you experience any pain or discomfort.

What is Physical Therapy?

  • Physical therapists are trained, licensed specialists who help individuals develop, maintain and restore maximum movement and function. Physical therapists specialize in helping restore flexibility and strength to the spine to allow you to enjoy your life, pain free. Discuss with your doctor if physical therapy is a good option for your neck pain.

Treatment Approach

  • Medical research has shown physical therapy to be an effective treatment with positive long term outcomes for patients with neck pain. A successful treatment plan consists of the following: hands-on therapy, an exercise program, posture & body mechanics training, and modalities (cold/heat, ultrasound electrical stimulation).

Hands-On Therapy

Physical therapists are trained to apply specialized, hands-on techniques that help relax tight muscles and restore joint movement in the neck.

Exercise Program

A patient-specific exercise program focusing on mobility and strength will be designed to help you return to your optimal daily activity and quality of life.

Posture & Body Mechanics Training

Physical therapists are experts at movement analysis. Your physical therapist will help you improve your posture and body mechanics (especially reaching and lifting) for your daily activities.

Modalities

Cold/heat, ultrasound, and electrical stimulation are used to decrease pain and relax the muscles.