Treatment of Neck Pain
What is Neck Pain?
Neck pain is medically referred to as Cervical spine dysfunction. Neck Pain is a common aliment especially prevalent in downtown Toronto’s, Financial district. Here countless hours are spent sitting in front of a computer screen or looking down at smart phones. As a result of this lifestyle our neck takes increased loads for prolonged periods and neck pain is common.
Seeking treatment with a trusted Physiotherapist, Chiropractor, Massage therapist, or with a Sports Medicine Doctor and/or having an Ergonomic assessment is a smart way to treat the pain or prevent it before it happens.
What are the Causes of Neck pain?
Muscle Strain or Soft Tissue Sprain
In this case the muscles, ligaments of joint capsules have been overloaded and as a result have been injured and damaged. This is best treated with gentle stretches and movements that are specific to your injury presentation. It may also be important to learn what postures/positions caused the strain/sprain so that you prevent this condition from recurring in the future.
“Wry Neck” is an Acutely Stiff or Stuck Joint
This often occurs when you wake up with a painful neck and are unable to turn your head in a certain direction. It is most likely caused by a small piece of tissue that naturally surrounds the joint getting stuck in the joint space. It is best treated with manual and manipulative therapy from a Physiotherapist or Chiropractor as well as in conjunction with Massage therapy.
Degenerative Disc Disease of the Cervical Spine
This term is used to describe arthritis or a disc lesion in the neck. This is the wear and tear that develops over time and is a natural part of aging. Think of it like wrinkles on the inside of our bodies. Sometimes this type of pain can be more stubborn but will resolve with treatment and consistent rehabilitation exercises with a particular focus on good posture.
Neck and Shoulder Pain Caused by a Cervical Radiculopathy
This occurs when there is compression on a nerve exiting at your neck which may refer pain down into the arm and hand. The pain down the arm can be described as shooting, burning, tingling and or numb. You can also experience pain and/or stiffness at the neck. Once the pressure on the nerve root is released the symptoms will be reduced. In most cases Physiotherapy and or Chiropractor in conjunct with Massage therapy will resolve the pain. If your therapist recognizes the pain is severe or not decreasing in a normal timeline they will refer to a Sports Medicine Doctor. Here they may provide you with safe and effective medication management and diagnostic imaging. In more rare cases, surgical management may be needed. Be patient with your treatment and do not rush to surgical intervention if it is not necessary. Remember the timeline for this recovery spans from a few weeks to months.
This type of headache is common in office workers. It is caused by the tightness in the upper area of your neck joints and/or muscles of the head and neck. When tight, these joints and muscles refer pain around the head and can feel like headaches. This condition can be treated effectively with Physiotherapy and Chiropractic. It is important that you change your posture, reduce stress and seek proper treatment.
How can Physiotherapy, Chiropractic, Massage Therapy and a Sports Medicine Doctor Help your Neck Pain?
A team of healthcare professionals can personalize your treatments to address your specific injury and help you return to your personal lifestyle goals. Each member of the team has its role. Treatments can include controlling pain with therapeutic modalities, acupuncture or Gunn IMS. Improving range of motion with hands on manual therapy or manipulation and soft tissue release. Maintaining motion by working on regular range of motion exercises for the neck. Increasing strength with a stabilization and strengthening program. Education in regards to lifestyle modifications, posture re-education and ergonomic set up are also important. If your neck pain has not resolved in 1-2 weeks from it’s initial onset it is best to be assessed by a health care professional.
How Long Does it Take to Recover from Neck Pain?
Depending on the cause, severity, duration of the pain and your ability to get the proper treatment, recovery can take a few weeks up to months. It is important to understand what is happening and to seek guidance and treatment from a qualified health practitioner as soon as possible. Remember to be patient and consistent with your exercise program. Your trusted health provider will inform you if your symptoms are not progressing as expected and if you should seek out further investigations or surgical management.
Remember that your trusted physiotherapist and/or chiropractor sees these types of conditions regularly and will be the best person to advise you on the best route of management.
What are the Best Exercises to Help with Neck Pain?
A well-rounded program should consist of core, neck and shoulder stabilization strengthening. It should also include daily range of motion and a stretching regime. These exercises should be individualized to your particular needs and goals.
How to Treat Neck Pain at Home?
- If you have acute pain in your neck, you may first want to try ice especially immediately after an injury event. If the pain has more of a gradual onset or has been lingering for some time then heat might be the better choice. You may also choose to apply both intermittently depending on how they make your symptoms feels.
- You should also try to improve the positions and postures that can be aggravating your symptoms. Pay close attention to the positions that make you feel worse such as sitting at your computer, sleeping on your stomach, texting on your phone or using your tablet. Try to adjust these problem causing postures.
- Try gentle range of motion (ROM) exercises. Turn your head to the left and right. Bring your ear down to your shoulder. Bring your chin to your chest and look up towards the ceiling. Keep these movements within your pain free limits. A qualified physiotherapist will be able to guide you on more individualized and specific exercises that will benefit you.
- If the pain continues and does not respond to the aforementioned strategies, then over the counter pain or anti-inflammatory medication might be indicated, talk to your pharmacist to help direct you.
If your neck continues to have pain or feel stiff an assessment and treatment for Physiotherapy, Chiropractic and/or Massage Therapy is highly encouraged. Contact us today!
Heather Imrie, FCAMPT Physiotherapist
Heather Imrie is a FCAMPT physiotherapist practicing at Rebalance Sports Medicine in downtown Toronto.