By: Richard A. Owens, PT, MS, OCS, Cert. SHT, CWcHP, Cert DN
About two thirds of people will experience neck pain at some time in their life, whether from an accident or that "crick" in your neck with simply waking in the morning. Neck pain is highest in middle age, with women being affected more than men. Neck pain, or cervical pain, is a common medical condition that can come from a number of disorders and diseases, such as degenerative disc disease, acute neck strain, whiplash from a car accident, herniated disc or a pinched nerve.
The neck is made up of seven small vertebrae, intervertebral discs to absorb shock, joints, the spinal cord, nerve roots, muscles and ligaments. Because of the large amount of motion in the neck and the weight of the head, this area is more vulnerable to injury. Injury to any of these structures can cause neck pain.
Neck pain can be sharp, or just a dull ache. Sometimes neck pain is worse with looking up or down, or with turning your head while driving to check lanes. Other symptoms associated with neck pain can include numbness and tingling in the shoulders and arms, tenderness to touch, sharp shooting pains in the neck or down one or both arms, difficulty swallowing, or dizziness and
Lightheadedness. Your physician can help you determine the underlying cause of your neck pain and the appropriate course of action to get you relief.
Physical therapy includes many types of treatments, including both passive and active techniques to restore mobility and function. These are specifically tailored to meet the needs and unique symptoms of each patient. Passive treatments help to relax you and your body. They also prepare your body for therapeutic exercise, which is the active part of physical therapy.Your physical therapist may give you passive treatments such as:
- Soft tissue mobilization/massage: This technique targets chronic muscle tension--tension in your neck that perhaps builds up through daily life stress. The therapist uses direct pressure and friction to try to release the tension in your soft tissues (ligaments, tendons, muscles).
- TENS (transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation): A machine stimulates your muscles through variable intensities of electrical current. TENS helps reduce muscle spasms, and it may increase your body's production of endorphins, your natural pain killers. Your therapist may even suggest getting a smaller version for you to use at home.
- Traction: In traction, the therapist will try to stretch and mobilize your spine so that you feel less pain and can move more easily. This can help to decompress "pinched nerves". He or she can do this manually using a hands on approach, or by using a mechanical traction device.
- Ultrasound: By increasing blood circulation, an ultrasound helps reduce muscle spasms, cramping, swelling, stiffness, and pain. It does this by sending sound waves deep into your muscle tissues, creating a gentle heat that enhances circulation and healing.
In the active part of physical therapy, your therapist will teach you exercises to work on your posture and positioning, flexibility, strength and stability, as well as your range of motion. Your physical therapy program is individualized, taking into consideration your health and current symptoms, and may not be suitable for another person with neck pain.
It's very easy to succumb to bad habits and postures that create neck pain, and a lot of this depends on what you do in your every day routine, whether at home or at work. Slouching at the dinner table or slumping over your desk with your shoulders hunching your shoulders forward are all postures that may eventually lead to neck problems. Your physical therapist can help you identify and break those bad habits and create healthy new ones. To make sure that you're not re-injuring yourself, your physical therapist may actually analyze your home and work environments, giving you tips on how you can protect yourself from pain.
Professional Rehabilitation Services is a Physical Therapist owned Private Outpatient Physical Therapy Practice specializing in pain, orthopedics, balance and sports injuries with offices in Myrtle Beach and Pawleys Island, SC. Your neck pain and symptoms are extensively evaluated by our expert Manual Therapists and Board Certified Orthopaedic Physical Therapists who have years of training in medical evaluation of musculoskeletal conditions.
For more information on this topic or to schedule a free 15 minute consultation please contact BBrian P. Kinmartin PT, DPT, MTC, OCS, STC, CWcHP, Cert. DN, (Pawleys Island) (843) 235-0200, Richard A. Owens, PT, MS, OCS, Cert. SHT, CWcHP, Cert DN (Surfside) (843) 831-0163 at Professional Rehabilitation Services, Richard DeFalco, DPT, OCS, CSCS, CWcHP, Cert. DN (Myrtle Beach) (843) 839-1300, or visit us at: www.prsrehabservices.com.