Neck pain affects your range of motion and can greatly inhibit your ability to complete regular tasks each day. It’s also common for neck pain to radiate down your back and into your shoulders.
Your neck, also called the cervical spine, is made of seven vertebrae that provide for regular motion and protection of your spinal cord. While your neck gives you the ability to look and move in many directions, there are also many possible causes of neck pain. Poor posture, trauma, and wear and tear can all contribute to neck pain.
When home remedies are not enough to relieve the most common causes of neck pain, you may benefit from seeing a physical therapist for pain relief, strengthening, and prevention of recurring neck pain.
Hours of use of computers, phones, and other devices can lead to what is called "tech neck" or "text neck." This neck pain is associated with the use of technology, when the cervical spine is titled for long periods of time, resulting in a regular increase in the amount of weight distributed to your neck. As your neck is overworked, your upper back muscles can also become sore.
Physical therapy helps to rehabilitate the neck muscles. Specialized neck stretching exercises can help to improve the neck's flexibility and strength. Left unaddressed, tech neck can lead to shoulder pain, headaches, wear-and-tear, and pinched nerves.
Some changes might be recommended at home as well, such as elevating your computer monitor, using an ergonomic desk chair, and taking regular breaks from using screens.
Your neck’s discs and joints deteriorate with age, and arthritis of the neck (also called cervical spondylosis) refers to these wear-and-tear changes that develop. Aging discs lose water content and height, resulting in the decrease of the cushioning between discs. This loss of cartilage can result in pain, stiffness, and decreased range of motion. Age, genetics, occupation, smoking, and previous injury all contribute to the risk of arthritis of the neck.
Treating arthritis of the neck with physical therapy involves pain relief exercises and stretches designed to strengthen the weakened muscles. Posture therapy and traction can also be used to gently stretch the affected areas.
A herniated disc in the neck area is referred to as a herniated cervical disc. Your spinal discs are located between the vertebrae, acting as shock absorbers for everyday activities and movements and allowing your neck and spine to move and twist. If the soft, inner substance of a disc ruptures or bulges, it is referred to as a herniated disc. This can occur as a result of a wear-and-tear injury or sudden strain. It is one of the most common causes of neck pain, and other symptoms include weakness and tingling in the hand or arm.
Treating a herniated cervical disc with physical therapy involves stretching exercises, aerobic activities, ice and heat therapy, massage therapy, and electrical stimulation of the muscles.
Cervical dysfunction is a common cause of neck pain. It is believed to be a misalignment of facet joints and can contribute to secondary muscle spasms. This condition can develop due to everyday wear and tear or a sudden, single injury.
Avoiding strain, practicing good posture, heat and massage therapy, and physiotherapy are methods for treating cervical dysfunction. If the pain becomes chronic, nerve stimulation and hydrotherapy can help.
Whiplash injury occurs when the neck is forcefully moved back and forth, resulting in injury to the vertebrae, discs between vertebrae, muscles, ligaments, nerves, and tissues in the neck. It can result in chronic pain and symptoms that last an extended period of time, including:
Whiplash can be caused by car accidents, falls, sports accidents, and other trauma. A prompt diagnosis is important for treatment, which usually involves the goals of controlling pain and restoring range of motion.
Physical therapy for a whiplash injury can include nerve stimulation and exercises such as: tilting the head from side to side, rolling the shoulders, and rotating the neck.