Do you have persistent neck pain, and you want to know does physiotherapy help neck pain?
Many people experience such pains, and most of the time, it’s due to overuse or poor posture. Another reason for this could be because of sleeping in awkward positions. However, there are instances when neck pains are present because of injuries from falls, whiplash, or contact sports.
Then there’s physiotherapy; treatment for maintaining, restoring, and making the most of one’s function, mobility, and well-being. It aids someone going through physical rehab, health, injury prevention, and even fitness. It sounds like a treatment that can help neck pains, right? But can it?
Physiotherapy is considered one of the most successful and one of the best ways to treat chronic neck pains. It doesn’t only help you manage and control the symptoms better. The treatment can also help enhance the strength and flexibility of your neck muscles.
We’ll see here how physiotherapy can help neck pain and why it’s the right step for you.
Neck Pain – Overview
Your neck has been subject to repeated stress and even minor injuries. The latter may not cause pain immediately or during the time of injury, but repeated strain adds up over time. Then, it can eventually cause the degeneration of your cervical spine, which causes neck pain.
Generally, most neck pains are caused by degenerative changes that happen along the neck. And, the condition of your cervical spine often determines how fast you can recover from injuries. It also determines whether your neck pain will become a chronic problem in the future.
Neck Pain Left Side
Pain on the left side of your neck can be caused by different reasons. These range from muscle strains, all the way to a pinched nerve. However, most cases aren’t alarming and serious.
Neck Pain Right Side
Just like pain on the left side of your neck, feeling pain on the right side isn’t a serious case. It’s often due to poor sleeping positions, muscle strain, or bad posture.
Like other bodily pains, if you feel discomfort or it continues for days, see your doctor. He or she will provide recommendations on medical cures and even home remedies for it.
Back Neck Pain
This is often whiplash, and it happens when your head jerks back or forward in a sudden motion. This can occur from a vehicular accident, tackles while playing football, or a violent incident similar to what we’ve mentioned.
This can often lead to painful neck injuries. Also, headaches and neck stiffness are the usual symptoms of whiplash. But generally, its symptoms vary, plus the pain and stiffness go away in a couple of weeks.
When it comes to sore necks, it’s typically because of strange or uncomfortable sleeping positions. Or, it happens when you usually hold your neck at a certain angle. This angle usually stresses your tendons and muscles on that particular side.
Neck stiffness or stiff necks develop over time, especially when muscles weaken due to poor posture or continuous misuse. When neck muscles become weak, and you attempt to turn your head to one side, the joint won’t move smoothly. This happens because it’s gotten out of place.
Usually, the joint either hits a nerve or pulls a muscle irregularly. But if worse comes to worst, both of these could happen simultaneously.
When it comes to neck spasms, these happen when the muscles on your neck suddenly and involuntarily tighten. Your neck becomes stiff and painful, thus, can affect your ability to turn your head.
What often triggers neck spasms include stress-related muscle tension or unusual/awkward neck movements.
What Will a Physio Do for Neck Pain?
When you opt for physiotherapy to treat your neck pains, the physio will utilize several manual techniques. These include massages and joint mobilization for loosening tight muscles and stiff joints. Doing this will help alleviate pain.
Additionally, physiotherapy for your neck pain also involves heat packs, ultrasound, TENS for pain relief, and numerous exercises.
How Long Does Treatment Take?
Treating neck pain properly will take some time, and it’s a process that can’t be rushed. So if you plan to use physiotherapy to alleviate your neck pains, it’s best to start sooner for quicker recovery.
When it comes to completing the treatment, eliminating/reducing neck pain usually lasts for 6 to 12 weeks.
Physiotherapy Exercises for Neck Pain
Activities like sports, workouts, or even sitting by your desk all day can strain your neck. And eventually, these can lead to discomfort and pain.
There are numerous conditions requiring orthopaedic surgery, but non-invasive treatments are usually better for long-term outcomes. That’s the reason why such treatments are considered the first line of defence against neck pains.
To relieve your neck pains through non-invasive treatments, you should meet with a qualified physical therapist. They will create an ideal plan for your neck pain, allowing you to gain flexibility and strength safely. Plus, this will help lower your chances of developing future neck problems or injuries. Here are some exercises that your physical therapist may suggest for relief.
Shoulder + Head Rolls
These are good warm-up stretches to start with before trying out other exercises. For a shoulder roll, relax your arms at your sides. Then, with your head kept upright, lift then roll your shoulders slowly.
Don’t forget to relax between each roll you make. For this exercise, do 10 rolls forward then 10 rolls back.
Before attempting a head roll, make sure to stretch your neck a bit. Your shoulder blades should be relaxed and your head shouldn’t be tilting forward.
Begin by dipping your chin slowly and carefully toward your chest then hold for a couple of breaths. If you can’t dip your chin or doing this causes more pain, stop immediately and contact your doctor.
When you’ve successfully dipped your chin and were able to hold for some breaths, that’s good. From there, proceed by lifting your head then lowering your left ear to your left shoulder, then holding. Do this movement for your right side too then do the same stretch with your head tilted back.
After stretching your neck, roll your head slowly and carefully in sections. From tilted back or tucked in front towards each side, five times in a row. Remember to avoid doing a complete head roll since it can actually strain your neck.
Seated Neck Stretches
This exercise is quite simple, and you can do this even while at your desk. To do a seated stretch, sit upright with your feet on the ground. Remember to keep them nice and flat. Then, extend your right arm on your right side then position your left hand at the top of your head.
From there, slowly tilt your head to the left while applying some pressure with your hand. Doing so will gently increase and intensify the stretch.
Hold the position for 30 seconds, then repeat for the opposite side. You’ll feel the stretch along the levator scapula muscles on the sides of your neck.
This form of exercise helps strengthen and improve your shoulders. It also aids in supporting your neck muscles without causing too much stress like what standard push-ups would.
To do this, stand facing a wall and make sure to have two to three feet of space in front of you. Also, position your feet and have them shoulder-width apart. After properly positioning yourself, rest your hands on the wall and make sure they’re below shoulder level.
Begin with straight arms then bend your elbows carefully to move your body closer to the wall. Do this 10 times for one or two sets.
High impact sports are usually hard on the neck. But for low-impact sports, these can help you avoid strain. Examples of these include swimming, recumbent biking, and walking.
If you have neck pains, lots of physical therapists will recommend aerobic exercise in the pool. Doing these will increase the blood flow to your neck. While in the water, you can try to do the neck flexibility stretches such as the clock exercise.
- Stand in a lunging position while having both your arms at shoulder length. With your right hand and foot positioned forward at a 12-o’clock position, sweep your left hand back to 6-o’clock. This motion should be followed by your head and body then should be repeated five times.
- Keep your left hand sweeping to that 6-o’clock motion while your head moves towards the 9-o’clock motion. This is done for five repetitions.
- For the remaining set of five, your head will remain at 12-o’clock while your arm will sweep to the 6-o’clock motion. Repeat this five times.
This neck exercise will strengthen the muscles that pull your shoulder blades together. To do this, you’ll need to face down on your bed, or on any similar surface. Then, angle yourself so your face is in a corner while you can have your arms dangle from each side.
Just make sure that you’re comfortable when doing so. Once you’ve positioned yourself correctly, row upward. Bend your elbows and squeeze your shoulder blades together. You’ll need to do this without moving your head.
Try to do about 20 repetitions for one or two sets. If you want, you can add light weights if you find the exercise too easy.
Is Physiotherapy Good for Neck Pain?
Physiotherapy has become an excellent method of treating chronic neck pains. It works by helping control the symptoms while simultaneously improving your neck muscles’ strength and flexibility.
Physiotherapy for neck pains often includes these goals:
- Decreasing stiffness and pain
- Improves your neck and head’s range of motion
- Develops strengthening of your neck and supporting musculature
- Finds and develops ways to prevent pain and discomfort from recurring
Although pain can’t be eliminated completely, physiotherapy is vital in enhancing your neck function. It also works great in improving your posture for everyday movements.
When Should I See a Physio for Neck Pain?
A lot of us spend our days facing our workstations. Then when we get home, we end up having uncomfortable nights of tossing and turning because of neck pains and the like.
Because of the recurring pain, we tend to believe that having neck pains is a part of life. However, this isn’t true because a sore and stiff neck can go from annoying to extremely taxing in a snap. Then, it will need to get treated before it starts affecting even your daily life.
If you’re wondering when you should see a physio for your neck pain, here’s when you should.
Tingling or Numbness – Pinched nerves are the cause of muscle, bone, and other tissues applying too much pressure around and on a nerve. If you experience pins and needles or numbness that doesn’t go away after a day or two, it’s time. This is when you should book a meeting with a physio.
Clicking or Grating Bones – When your neck muscles become stiff, it immediately adds pressure to the spine, which causes it to grind or click. These are usually harmless, but when the muscles get stiff for prolonged periods, it will increase your risk of injuries.
Fainting and Dizziness – If you get dizzy when looking up or turning your head, it’s likely due to pinched arteries along your spine. This could mean that the blood flowing to your brain has been reduced temporarily. Now, if you get dizzy often, you likely and subconsciously stop moving your head. In turn, this leads to stiffness of your muscles which can lead to even more problems. It’s best to meet a physio during these moments since they can pinpoint where the spine’s pinched arteries are. They’ll also tell you how it’ll be treated while attending to your stiff neck muscles too.
Muscle Spasms – Muscle spasms occur when one or a group of muscles suddenly stiffen. This can cause severe neck pain with stiffness and discomfort that spreads down to the shoulders and back. The pain can also restrict you from moving your head.
What is the Fastest Way to Relieve Neck Pain?
These are the fastest and simplest ways to relieve minor and common causes of neck pain:
Applying Ice or Heat to the Affected Area – For the first 48 to 72 hours, apply ice on the affected area, then use heat afterwards. You can apply heat by using a hot compress and heating pads, or by taking a warm shower.
Limit Looking Down at Your Phone – Constantly looking down at your phone pulls on your neck muscles, resulting in constant strain. If you need to use your smartphone often, try holding your phone at eye level and taking hourly breaks. Also, use earbuds or headphones instead of holding your phone between your ear and shoulder. After using your phone, take some time to stretch and relax your muscles to relieve any form of strain.
Stretching and Avoiding Sudden Movements – Stretching helps relieve neck pain and stiffness. But of course, remember to stretch gently and slowly. Be sure to avoid sudden movements since this can cause more pain, inflammation, and serious injuries. Before stretching, apply a heat pad or take a warm shower.