8 top techniques used in physical therapy for neck pain

physical therapy for neck pain

Neck pain is a common ailment that can affect your daily life, making even the simplest tasks uncomfortable. Neck pain affects nearly 20% to 50% of people every year. Neck pain can be due to a variety of issues, but no matter the cause, finding pain relief is your top priority. Physical therapy is a proven and effective approach that can help alleviate neck pain. 

Understanding neck pain

It’s crucial to understand the causes and types of neck pain. The underlying issue can affect the recommended treatment plan. Common neck pain issues can be:

  • Muscle strain — Muscle strain can often be associated with poor posture or sudden movements, which can result in a localized neck pain. 
  • Cervical spondylosis — Cervical spondylosis is an age-related condition. It involves the degeneration of the cervical spine and can lead to pain and stiffness in the neck. 
  • Herniated disc — When a spinal disc in the neck ruptures or bulges, it can put pressure on the nearby nerves. This nerve pressure can cause pain that radiates down into the arms. 
  • Whiplash — Whiplash is caused by sudden and forceful movement of the neck. This condition is often caused by a car accident. 
  • Arthritis — Osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can both contribute to neck pain. Osteoarthritis is the result of wear and tear in the neck joint and can lead to stiffness and discomfort. Rheumatoid arthritis is caused by an autoimmune condition and can cause inflammation and pain in the neck due to the immune system mistakenly attacking healthy tissue. 
  • Pinched nerve — Compressed or pinched nerves can lead to neck pain and radiating symptoms. Compressed nerves are often caused by bone spurs or disc herniation. 

How can physical therapy help neck pain?

Physical therapy is a noninvasive and evidence-based approach to helping manage neck pain. It can focus on improving neck mobility, strength and posture, while also helping to reduce pain and discomfort. Your physical therapist will first do a full evaluation of your condition. This can include a pain assessment to help determine the type and intensity of your neck pain. This evaluation can help them create a tailored treatment plan to your specific needs and concerns. Treatments will be intended to help improve your range of motion and posture. Physical therapy techniques and modalities for neck pain can include:

  • Strengthening exercises — These targeted exercises are intended to help strengthen the muscles that support your neck. This helps promote stability and can provide pain relief. 
  • Manual therapyManual therapy techniques such as soft tissue mobilization and joint mobilization can help alleviate pain and improve your joint function. 
  • Electrical stimulationTranscutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) units deliver a low-level electrical current to the neck area. This can help block pain signals, which can promote pain relief. It can also encourage muscle relaxation and boost circulation, both of which can help promote faster healing and recovery. 
  • Dry needling Dry needling is a technique used by trained physical therapists that involves inserting fine, sterile needles into specific trigger points within the neck muscles. This can help to release tension, promote circulation and provide pain relief. 
  • Myofascial releaseMyofascial release is a manual technique that involves a physical therapist applying pressure to the fascia that surrounds the muscles in the neck. This can help release tension and knots in the connective tissue, leading to pain relief and improved neck flexibility. 
  • Cupping — This ancient technique involves placing special cups on the skin to create a suction effect. It can help increase blood flow, reduce muscle tension and alleviate neck pain. 
  • Graston Technique® The Graston Technique can be an effective method for helping to address neck pain. With this technique, a certified physical therapist uses special stainless steel instruments to find and treat soft tissue restrictions in the neck area. By treating these issues, it can help alleviate neck pain and improve mobility. 
  • Heat therapy — Your physical therapist may recommend you use heat therapy between physical therapy appointments. Heat can help boost circulation and relax muscles in your neck area. This can help to reduce pain and stiffness you are experiencing. 

The choice of modalities and techniques by your physical therapist will depend on the type and severity of your neck pain. Physical therapists tailor their treatment plans to meet your specific needs. This is intended to ensure that you receive the most effective and comfortable treatment. Your physical therapist may also work in conjunction with your primary health care provider who may recommend medications such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications or muscle relaxers depending on the type and severity of your neck pain. 

Neck pain doesn’t have to control your life. Armor Physical Therapy can help

Treatment at Armor Physical Therapy can provide you with a holistic and evidence-based approach to managing your neck pain. Our expert team of physical therapists will combine exercises, stretches and various other treatment modalities that can help you find pain relief and regain mobility. Under the guidance of skilled physical therapists, we can help you take steps toward a more comfortable life. 

Contact us today for more information or to schedule an initial appointment. 

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