Neck Pain

What Causes Neck Pain?

Neck pain is a common complaint and can greatly reduce tolerance for work and leisure activity.  The neck is a very mobile area, and this is good as it allows us to look at a large area around us.  Because of this, the neck requires good muscular support to control motion, and pain can develop when strength and support are lacking.  Additionally, poor posture can increase strain on the neck muscles and joints, leading to discomfort and tension.  Nerve irritation may occur due to arthritic changes or from repetitive strain injuries and may lead to radiating pain and numbness in the arms.  Neck pain can often be associated with headache symptoms.  Unfortunately, trauma may cause whiplash or concussion injuries, which are associated with neck pain.  Physical therapy is usually the first choice for non-surgical treatment of neck pain.

Symptoms of Neck Pain

  • Pain in the head, neck, shoulders, or trunk
  • Headaches
  • Neck muscle tightness and spasms
  • Radiating pain or numbness in the arms
  • Weakness in the neck, arms, or hands
  • Difficulty sleeping or finding a comfortable sleep position
  • Difficulty driving
  • Difficulty with computer work or prolonged sitting

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Common Treatments of Neck Pain

  • Postural correction and re-education
  • Dry needling
  • Electrical stimulation
  • Ergonomics assessment/education
  • Heat/Cold
  • Cervical traction
  • Soft tissue mobilization/joint mobilization
  • Strengthening exercises
  • Stretching/flexibility exercises

Treatment of neck pain will depend on the specific factors that contribute to the pain and disability.  Manual treatments, such as soft tissue or joint mobilization, often reduce stiffness in affected muscles and make it easier to move and complete other exercises.  Posture education is important to identify activities that may be bothering the neck to reduce irritation over the course of the day.  Workplace setup and car seat assessments may be performed to improve comfort while working and driving.  Cervical traction is sometimes used for arm pain and numbness or for headaches to relieve pressure on the neck and reduce symptoms.  Because the influence of daily activities on neck pain can be complex, a comprehensive and thorough assessment is often needed to identify and correct bothersome movements.