Physical therapy is one of the most common treatments for chronic neck pain. Most physical therapy programs for neck pain involve applying treatments to reduce pain and/or stiffness enough to begin an exercise program of strengthening and stretching the neck. The specific methods and exercises used in physical therapy, as well as the duration of the treatment plan, can vary from person to person.
Goals of Physical Therapy for Neck Pain
Physical therapy for neck pain typically includes the following goals:
Reduce pain and stiffness
Improve head and neck range of motion
Develop dynamic strengthening of the neck and its supporting musculature
Develop strategies to prevent pain from recurring
Physical therapy for the neck might be recommended in a variety of cases.
When neck pain lingers or keeps recurring, the exact source or mechanism of pain can be difficult to identify. Even without a diagnosis, increasing the strength of the neck’s muscles may help them to better support the cervical spine and become more resistant to pain. Physical therapy for the neck may be recommended in other cases as well, such as part of a larger treatment program for other diseases or chronic conditions. The pain that comes from your neck can be felt in different places which can confuse your condition and make it difficult to treat. The pain may be felt directly on your neck or on one side of the neck. Pain from your neck can often be felt in your shoulder blades and other types of shoulder pain can also come from your neck.
If any of the nerves in your neck are irritated or pinched, you may feel pain when you walk between your arms and hands. Weakness, numbness or tingling can sometimes be felt in your hands and arms as well. Be sure to discuss all your symptoms with your physical therapist or Doctor so that he or she can understand your condition and find the best treatment options for you.
In some cases, physical therapy may not help reduce neck pain or could even worsen the problem. Physical therapy is typically not recommended for chronic neck pain if any of the following are true:
Significant spinal instability. Sometimes the cervical spine is not stable enough for exercises, such as if a vertebral bone is fractured, or if spinal degeneration causes compression of the spinal cord or a nerve root. In such cases, the spine must be stabilized to prevent further injury before resuming physical therapy.
Serious underlying medical issue. If neck pain results from an infection or tumor, the underlying cause must be addressed first. For example, if a cancerous tumor is contributing to neck pain, doing exercises will not reduce the tumor size, and the problem can instead grow and get worse.
One of the challenges with collecting good data about physical therapy’s effectiveness or lack thereof is that it is hard to measure how well a person follows the prescribed program. For example, a person may do exercises with poor form or not as often as directed, which can reduce the chances of the treatment working.
Information provided by Encompass Health and Rehabilitation in Katy Texas