August 26, 2021
What is it?
Neck pain is pain felt at the base of the head along the spine. If nerves are involved, the pain can radiate down into the shoulders, arms, elbows, and fingers.
Information and causes?
Neck pain affects about 30% of the population each year and is common with those who work in an office, classroom, or manual labor setting. These jobs are known to cause repetitive motions and constant postures that can develop overuse injuries in the neck, shoulders, and upper back region. Other causes can include random incidences of muscle strain (pulled muscles) which can happen with poor sleeping postures, sudden, quick movements, or motor vehicle accidents (whiplash).
The signs and symptoms?
People with neck pain may experience stiffness in the neck, and may describe the pain they feel as:
Neck pain can cause any of the following signs:
- Inability to bend at the neck or turn the head left and right
- Difficulty looking up
- Difficulty looking over the shoulder
- Weak arm and shoulder muscles
- Muscle spasms
Neck pain can cause any of the following symptoms:
- Pain in the neck, upper back, shoulders, arms, or hands
- Numbness or tingling in the neck, shoulders, arms, or hands
- Weakness in the arms
- Increased pain when coughing, sneezing, reaching, or sitting
- Inability to stand straight or sit up straight
- Stiffness when trying to move, or a feeling of being “stuck” in a position such as stooped forward, or with the head leaning to the side
- Tight muscles
- Inability to remain in one position for a long period of time, such as sitting or standing, due to pain
- Pain that is worse in the morning or at night
- Difficulty sleeping due to pain
For someone with neck pain, it is best to learn more about the disease itself and management to help gain control of their personal health. Physical therapy is a common and effective treatment of neck pains and strains. A recent study showed that physical therapy in conjunction with heat and ibuprofen use proved to be the most effective in neck rehabilitation (DOI: 10.3233/BMR-160577)
Physical therapy will initially focus on educating the patient about the disease. Research shows that people who are knowledgeable about their condition have better coping abilities. This education can include learning how the body perceives pain and how to take control of the pain. Pain management through various types of exercises such as aerobics, manual therapy, stretching, and postural training can help improve overall function, general health and sleep quality in patients with neck pain. Your physical therapist will design a program that is right for you and your goals.
At your first visit you should expect a physical therapist that is there to get to know you, your current complaints, and your goals. Using this information and the information they gather during their evaluation they will set up an individualized treatment plan that will help you reach your goals and get back to your life faster. Treatments could include modalities for pain control, manual therapy to help relieve muscle tension and promote healing, exercises to restore strength and motion, and muscular retraining to improve postural and overuse symptoms, spinal activation and stabilization.