Physical Therapy for Neck Pain Relief
Physical therapy is one of the most common treatments for chronic neck pain. Most physical therapy for neck pain programs involves applying pain reduction and exercise for neck strengthening and stretching programs. Specific methods and exercises used in physical therapy, as well as the duration of the treatment plan, can vary from person to person.
Purpose of Physical Therapy for Neck Pain
Physical therapy for neck pain usually includes the following goals:
1. Reduce pain and stiffness
2. Increase the range of head and neck movements
3. Strengthening the dynamic neck and supporting muscles
4. Develop strategies to prevent recurring pain
5. Even if the pain cannot be completely eliminated, physical therapy can play an important role in improving neck posture and function for everyday movements.
When might physical therapy be recommended?
Physical therapy for the neck may be recommended in various cases, such as:
Non-specific chronic pain. When neck pain persists or continues to recur, the right source or mechanism of pain can be difficult to identify. Even without a diagnosis, increasing the strength of the neck muscles can help them to better support the cervical spine and become more resistant to pain.
Healed from injury. Some injuries, such as whiplash, can damage soft tissue and neck joints, resulting in pain and / or stiffness that can last for weeks or longer. Physical therapy programs can reduce pain and help restore the neck to normal function.
Healed from surgery. Some operations performed on the neck can cause significant pain and stiffness in the following weeks and months. For example, anterior fusion cervical discectomy (ACDF) surgery involves fusion of 2 or more vertebrae in the neck, which can change how some of the neck muscles and upper back move. In such cases, physical therapy can help overcome stiffness, improve neck function, and reduce or prevent painful seizures when the muscles are reconditioned.
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.
When to Avoid Physical Therapy for Neck Pain?
In some cases, physical therapy may not help reduce neck pain or can even worsen the problem. Physical therapy is usually not recommended for chronic neck pain if one of the following is true:
Significant spinal instability. Sometimes the cervical spine is not stable enough to exercise, such as if the spine is broken, or if the spinal degeneration causes compression of the spinal cord or nerve roots. In such cases, the spine must be stabilized to prevent further injury before continuing physical therapy.
Serious basic medical problems. If neck pain is caused by an infection or tumor, the underlying cause must be addressed first. For example, if cancer tumors contribute to neck pain, doing exercises will not reduce tumor size, and the problem can actually grow and get worse.
Other reasons not to recommend physical therapy may also be present, such as if the patient's body will not tolerate treatment properly.
Methods of Physical Therapy Care
There are 2 forms of general physical therapy:
Passive physical therapy, which involves treatment that is applied without the effort of the patient. Many treatment methods are available, such as applying ice compresses, heat therapy, massage therapy, ultrasound, electrotherapy, and others. The purpose of passive physical therapy is to help reduce pain and swelling.
Active physical therapy, which involves the patient moving his own body through exercise and stretching. By increasing strength and flexibility in the neck, these muscles may become less painful and more able to maintain good posture, which reduces stress on the cervical spine.
The initial phase of physical therapy for neck pain may involve more passive treatment, but more active treatment may be included over time.
Benefits of Physical Therapy
Many studies have examined whether physical therapy can help reduce pain associated with the spine, such as the lower back or neck. The current medical literature shows moderate to strong evidence that supports the benefits of the role of physical therapy in reducing neck pain and increasing range of motion. Some studies have even found more benefits from physical therapy when combined with other treatment methods, such as aerobic activity.