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Physiotherapy is a fast and effective treatment option for a variety of neck pain complaints. Learn more about physiotherapy for neck pain below…
What does physiotherapy for neck pain involve?
Firstly, we have to establish the source of pain. The most common sources of neck pain are the muscles, joints or discs of the neck. Fortunately, injury to these tissues respond very well to physiotherapy treatment.
Secondly, we look for any underlying causes for the neck pain. Poor posture, weakness of key stabilising muscles and tightness of the middle back or shoulders are common problems associated with neck pain.
A treatment plan to not only eliminate the pain and restore movement, but also to address any underlying problems can then be established.
How does physiotherapy for neck pain work?
Physiotherapists use a variety of different techniques depending on the type of neck injury. In the sections below we detail common physiotherapy techniques used in the treatment of neck pain.
If irritated, joints of the neck are capable of causing both localised pain (neck pain itself) and ‘referred’ pain, commonly into the head (resulting in headache) or down the arms. Joint mobilisations are techniques used to restore proper movement to the joints to both reduce local and referred pain.
Traction has long been used in the treatment of neck pain, particularly in cases of disc herniation and stenosis. Traction helps to elongate and ‘open up’ the spine, unloading irritated nerves or joints
Much like joints, irritated muscles can also cause local and referred pains. Pictured is the upper trapezius muscle, a common culprit in posturally related neck pain and headache.
Massage is a very effective technique to address relax tight and irritated muscles such as the upper trapezius . Massage also will helps to improve circulation, improve mobility and reduce pain.
Dry needling is a therapeutic technique using an acupuncture needle to penetrate the skin and stimulate the underlying tissue. Dry needling is very effective at treating deep trigger points (knots) in the muscles of the neck and shoulders.
Physio Pilates combines the understanding of body biomechanics from the Physiotherapy discipline with the popular exercise routine of Pilates. Through tailored exercises Physio-pilates can help identify and address specific strength or mobility deficits helping for long term resolution of neck complaints. Commonly, in cases of neck pain this involves specific exercises targeting the deep stabilisers of the neck and shoulder which are often weak after traumatic injury or years of poor posture.
Is physiotherapy for neck pain safe?
Yes. Physiotherapy for neck pain is extremely safe. Most patients experience immediate relief following treatment however, some may experience mild soreness, stiffness or aching, just as they might after exercise. Current research shows that this discomfort typically fades within 24 hours.
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- Redrawn from Dwyer A, Aprill C, Bogduk N: Cervical zygapophyseal joint pain patterns. I: A study in normal volunteers, Spine 15:453-457, 1990.
‘Physiotherapy for Neck Pain’ was written by Shirley Rice. Shirley is a Physiotherapist at Dynamic Health in Jersey, Channel Islands. For more information about Shirley click here