PT eDigest

xxxxLoosen Up a Stiff Neck

Neck pain is a very common complaint. But the good news is that it is usually caused by joint and muscle problems, not serious disease. A variety of physical therapy treatments can lessen neck pain.

Mobilization is a rehabilitation technique in which our hands slowly and repeatedly move the neck joints and muscles to calm pain and spasms by helping the neck muscles relax, by bringing in a fresh supply of oxygen and nutrient-rich blood, and by flushing the area of chemical irritants that come from inflammation. Mobilization can also decrease scar tissue that inhibits motion, especially in the neck.

However, mobilization alone may not be the ideal treatment for neck stiffness or pain. Another potentially useful technique—depending on your individual condition—is manipulation. In manipulation, we make a single, brief, quick, small movement to specific spots on your body. For neck stiffness, the area targeted in manipulation may actually be your upper back.

A study conducted in 2013 strongly suggests that an integrated approach can help. Neck exercises combined with mobilization, and possibly manipulation, may be the best plan to reduce neck pain soon after it develops. We will suggest the proper exercises and show you exactly how to perform them—a crucial step to ensure that you do not make any injury worse. The ultimate goal, beyond making your neck feel better, is to increase strength and flexibility.

Exercise and mobilization can also help ensure that pain and stiffness do not recur in your neck. To that end, we will ask you questions about your posture and ergonomics—how you hold your neck and body while you walk, work, watch television, work on hobbies and even sleep. We can offer seemingly small recommendations that will make a huge difference in how you feel going forward.

Many other modalities can help your neck feel better, including heatice or electrical stimulation. In more difficult cases, we may turn to mechanical or manual traction, or a therapeutic collar, which you wear to enforce rest to a given area of your neck.

One size does not fit all when it comes to neck stiffness and pain, so contact us for a customized, integrated exercise plan. An integrated approach can help you move more easily and feel more like yourself again.

Download the PTedigest for May 2014