Physical Therapy for Neck Pain

Exercises for Neck Pain

Neck pain is a common condition that we see here at SSOR.  Like basically every injury, there are a host of reasons people have neck pain.  The physical therapists at SSOR are experts in finding the cause of your neck pain to help provide focus for your physical therapy and neck pain exercises.    Neck pain can be debilitating and make people miserable by the end of the day.  You know what it feels like – that achy pain in your shoulders that causes you to grab and squeeze them before it is time to go home for the day.  Maybe you even have pain that radiates from the neck down the arm.  Good news is we can help with that and get amazing results – quickly.

Who is at risk for neck pain?

Neck pain really covers the lifespan.  For the younger population, we typically see either neck strains from sports activities or what most people call a “pinched nerve” in their neck.  If you’ve had one, you know what that feels like – you turn your head in one direction and it is sharp pain that limits your motion significantly and maybe even radiates to your shoulder blade/scapula.  We sometimes hear patients tell us that they get startled from their alarm clock and they rapidly turn their head when they awaken.  “Pinched nerve” is actually a misnomer.  The pain comes from a part of your joint capsule that got wedged between two adjacent vertebrae.  A few treatments can take care of that.
Most people that come to see us however with neck pain are professionals, mostly female, that are in jobs where they sit too much at computers, the car, or in airplanes.  Neck pain tends to get worse as you age too because of arthritic changes.  That said, plenty of teenagers play video games, text, or watch TV too much which causes similar complaints.

What is the cause of neck pain?

Most neck pain is caused from posture or what is known as cumulative trauma.  Neck pain typically stems from sitting too long at the computer, texting (i.e. teenagers), driving too much (i.e. sales jobs), or just being sedentary.  Take all of these activities and repeat over several hours, then several days, months, etc – you get the picture.  These positions cause the head to come forward, the shoulders to slump forward, and the middle back to get rounded.  The forward head posture is implicated in headaches, neck pain, shoulder pain, and middle back pain.  The middle back pain sometimes radiates from the neck to between the scapulae, or “shoulder blades.”  The good news is all of these things are easily fixed.
Another common reason for neck pain is just age.  Like any other joint in our body, you can get neck arthritis.  If you think of an arthritic knee, it gets stiff, it’s achy in the morning, hurts when you do too much.  It’s the same for the neck.  With neck arthritis though, the vertebrae get closer together, and as a result, the nerves that go to the arm have pressure put on them.  This is usually the reason for that radiating pain that goes from the neck to the shoulder and sometimes, all the way to the hand.  You can get relief from therapy however – please don’t rush into surgery! PT is less painful and less invasive and can really help you!

Neck Pain Exercises

Our approach here at SSOR for neck pain is simple.  Here’s an itemized list of how we’ll address it.  The list is not comprehensive by any means because everyone has different needs, but in general we provide:

  1.  Education on posture and workplace ergonomics.  Basically, we make how you spend your day a little easier and put you in a position to succeed.  We’ll also educate you on how you got it, how to get rid of it, how to not let it happen again, and what to do if it does show up again.
  2. Give you exercises to work on your posture.  Mom has been telling you this for years, but it’s just not that easy to “sit up straight.” These include neck stretches, neck and back mobility exercises, and strengthening of your back muscles.  Figure 1 shows the “chin tuck” exercise.  Here, you roll up a towel lay down.  Then, you do a “nodding” motion with your head.  You should feel a stretch in back of the head.  Figure 2 shows an easy exercise you can do for posture on a foam roll.  Just lay there after work for 10-15 minutes and thank us later!
  3. Manual therapy to the neck and back.  The upper cervical spine, lower cervical spine, and thoracic spine all get addressed at SSOR for neck pain.  We address both soft tissue and spine/joint limitations. Figures 3 and 4 show just a few techniques we’ll use to help get you moving and feeling better.
  4. Strengthening of the deep neck muscles and the muscles between your shoulder blades that keep you upright.

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Figure 1: Chin tucks


 
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Figure 2: Lay on a foam roll


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Figure 3: Neck manual therapy


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Figure 4: Neck manual therapy


 
The research has shown that the above is the most effective approach for neck pain.  We will not waste your time with things like ultrasound or electrical stimulation for neck pain.  There is no evidence supporting their use for neck pain, so we won’t waste your time or money on them.  We assure you, our approach will get you results within a week provided you participate in the home program and comply with your physical therapy plan.
Give us a call at (913) 904-1128 and let our spine specialists help you decrease pain and maximize your function.  You don’t have to accept the pain and discomfort that you are experiencing.  It would be a privilege to serve you and partner with you in your outcome.  Remember, you don’t need a physician referral to get physical therapy in Kansas anymore – call today!