Neck pain

Do you have neck pain?  Are you tired of feeling achy in your neck and shoulders?  Do you sometimes get headaches from all of the neck pain and tension?  Does the pain keep you from sleeping through the night?  Do you feel like you are reaching the end of your rope?  You should schedule a visit with a doctor of physical therapy.  They are able to perform an evaluation to understand your neck pain and then advise you on the best course of action, whether that is to pursue physical therapy or other healthcare services.

Common Causes

Neck pain is caused by a wide variety of things.  People who have been involved in a whiplash incident, like a car crash, may have ongoing neck pain.  People who work at a desk for long hours might have neck pain.  People under high stress tend to have more neck pain.  It can be caused by doing a lot of overhead work, like painting a ceiling.  Neck problems can even cause pain that will hurt in your shoulder, arm or hand.  Neck pain is something that can come on suddenly and the origin is not always clear.  The pain can be originating from a number of areas in the neck.  The neck has numerous muscles that can cause pain when over worked.  There are many joints in the neck that can become irritated, and along with the joints are the tissues that hold the joints together.  The neck is a complex region in the body and it is important to find out what is causing the pain.  A doctor of physical therapy is able to perform a comprehensive examination and determine the reason for your particular pain.

Signs and Symptoms

The signs and symptoms of neck pain are numerous.  Take note of the following things so that the physical therapist can better identify the origin of your neck pain.

  • Neck pain frequency, duration and intensity
  • Pain with looking up or down, left or right
  • Neck pain while sleeping
  • Pain when reaching overhead
  • Neck pain that causes headaches
  • Pain worse with stress
  • Neck problems can occasionally cause stinging pain (or numbness/tingling) in the shoulder or arm

If you find you are having any of the above signs and symptoms you should schedule a visit with your doctor of physical therapy to receive treatment.

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Physical Therapy

On your first visit to physical therapy you will be evaluated.  The physical therapist will begin by getting a complete verbal history of the pain.  They will then use their hands to guide you through various motions and to palpate the neck issues.  They will combine all of the information they gather to determine from where the problem is originating.  They will then create an individual treatment plan for you.

Treatment can involve a wide variety of things.  It depends on what is causing your neck pain.  Most therapy will include neck stretches, and postural education specific to the shoulders, neck and head.  These two combine to help you reduce your pain throughout the day.  Physical therapy will utilize modalities like moist heat and electrical stimulation to relax the affected muscles.  The therapist will combine this with various manual techniques to alleviate the pain and restore motion to your neck.  Manual techniques can include stretches targeting specific neck muscles that are short, or tight.  They may also include distraction, in which a pulling force is applied to the spine, causing a gapping to areas where pinching or too much contact is happening.  Other techniques involve a gentle or firmer mobilization of the tissue.  This depends on how irritable the tissues are.  All of these manual techniques are completely safe and have a lot of research supporting that when they are used appropriately, they are very effective in accelerating the recovery time of these individuals.  The therapist may utilize ultrasound when deemed appropriate.  As you begin to improve, physical therapy will incorporate more advanced postural exercises to strengthen neck stabilizing muscles.  Your treatments will promote more autonomy and self care helping you prevent future occurrences.

Many people experience neck pain, and it can be quite uncomfortable if not debilitating.  It is also something that is very treatable.  Physical therapy is one of the best, if not the best, ways to treat neck pain.  If neck pain is something that has been bothering you, don’t be bothered anymore, set up an evaluation with a doctor of physical therapy and get back to feeling great.

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