Neck pain is very common with a 71% lifetime prevalence. Almost everyone at some point in their life will be affected. Neck Pain Physical Therapy is a great way to get relief and learn how to prevent pain from coming back.
Not all neck pain is the same. It is critical to determine the specific trigger of your symptoms to receive the correct treatment. For example, muscle spasms are a symptom caused by a problem usually in one of the neck joints, so instead of treating the spasms we correct the joint problem and the spasms go away. Another example is a herniated disc. This is a general diagnosis for a cut in the disc that needs further investigation to determine the exact location and if it is still open or closed and painful because of scar tissue. The injury looks the same on an MRI but the exercises are completely opposite.
Neck Pain Physical Therapy will start with an evaluation to determine the cause of your pain.
Your physical therapist (PT) will ask questions about the location of your symptoms, how and when they started, what movements/positions aggravate and relieve your symptoms. Your PT will then perform a physical exam and assess your posture, neck range of motion, neurological exam and the effect of repeated movements on your symptoms.
Neck disorders result from trauma (car accident or fall), postural (most common and usually secondary to a non-specific incident), and non-mechanical or caused by inflammatory or other conditions. Your physical therapist will determine if your problem is mechanical or non-mechanical by having you move your neck. Non-mechanical issues are NOT affected by movements of your neck.
Your physical therapist will refer you back to your physician for further testing if your symptoms are found to be non-mechanical. If your injury is caused by trauma, it is critical to rule out a fracture or instability.
Mechanical Neck Pain:
Stiffness is a warning sign that you need to change your posture. It indicates that the joint in your neck is out of balance. The most common problem from neck pain is within the joint. A joint is where two bones or vertebras come together.
They are separated by a disc that acts as a shock absorber in the neck. Muscle spasms are a symptom of a joint problem. The injury can cause muscle spasms in the upper trapezius and scapular region as the injury progresses. As the problem within the joint worsens, the disc herniates, causing symptoms to move further down your arm.
Cervical and upper thoracic nerve roots allow your arms and hands to feel and move. If a nerve becomes damaged or inflamed, it can cause ‘radiculopathy’, a term used to describe pain, numbness, tingling, or weakness in your arms/legs secondary to an injury to a nerve root.
Treatment for Mechanical Neck Pain / Neck Physical Therapy:
A thorough mechanical evaluation must be performed to determine the actual cause of your neck pain. But the following course of physical therapy treatment is beneficial to most requiring neck pain physical therapy and physical therapy for bulging disc in neck.
If your neck pain results from trauma, a car accident, or a fall, the damaged tissues must be correctly aligned during the early stages of healing. When we are in pain, we hold our heads forward in a protracted position. This causes a shortening of the suboccipital issues, which will lead to suboccipital headaches and a loss of upper cervical motion. Maintaining a good posture while your soft tissues heal after trauma will minimize any long-term detrimental effects.
Neck pain and spasms resulting from no apparent reason are usually caused by poor posture over an extended period. Constantly looking down at our devices has caused more and more to have a painful condition coined Text Neck. But this is just a variation to sitting at a computer all day or watching tv at night with resting with our head flexed forward. We keep our heads in one position for hours, day after day, and wonder why we wake up one morning with stiffness.
Changing and maintaining good postures is the first step in neck pain physical therapy.
Retraction is often a movement that is limited in those with neck pain. It is also limited in many who have no symptoms but have had a sedentary occupation. Those that suffer trauma such as a whiplash injury often heal with tightness in the upper cervical spine. And poor postural habits seen with those at a computer and looking down at devices places our head in a protracted position, over time causing a loss of the opposite retraction movement.
Cervical retraction stretches are important for most with neck pain due to postural causes and injury from trauma when fracture and laxity have been ruled out.
- Perform by pulling your head straight back over your shoulders while looking straight ahead.
- Hold for 1 second
- Perform 10x. 3x/day.
Extension of your neck is also often limited in those with neck pain and important exercise as part of physical therapy for bulging disc in the neck. Looking down is an activity that we do most of the day. But looking up is rarely performed in contrast. Before performing this exercise, we check our baselines or ability to turn your head to look over each shoulder and tilt your head, bringing your ear to each shoulder.
- Start at a position of your neck in a retracted position.
- Then look up to the sky and even attempt to further by looking up and behind you.
- Hold for 1 second and perform 10x. Each time attempting to go a little further.
- Perform 3x/day
***Stop any exercise that causes nausea, dizziness, symptoms down your arm and seek an evaluation by a medical professional.
Recheck your ability to turn your head to look over your shoulder and side bend to bring your ear to each shoulder. Suppose there is a loss of any of these motions after performing extension. In that case, you will require a lateral exercise and need a Mechanical Assessment to determine a more specific exercise.
Physical treatment for bulging disc and neck pain is now conveniently available by online physical therapists. Each of our virtual physical therapy provider(s) has also received an additional specialty in Mechanical Diagnosis (Cert. MDT) to assure you receive the highest quality online physical therapist.
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