Physical therapy is one of the very successful and non-hazardous methods of managing moderate to severe issues involving joints, muscles and ligaments. This type of pain is a very common issue that may occur at any age; however, most of the cases of pain are trivial and disappear with proper sleep, rest and pain-killers. But in some cases, neck pain is an early symptom of a more serious issue or organic pathology that requires serious interventions.
Neck pain is normally seen in adult professionals after using the computer and other devices for long hours without properly supporting the back musculature. Most young adults experience neck pain after a muscle pull during physical activity; however, in most elderly individuals (especially post-menopausal women) the cause of neck pain is cervical disc herniation as a result of degenerative bone disorders or inflammatory joint conditions like rheumatoid arthritis or osteoarthritis. It is also reported very frequently in individuals with a chronic history of osteoporosis or endocrinological disorders.
The symptoms of cervical disc herniation include pain in most cases but in advanced cases, it also affects the nerves exiting through the affected cervical vertebrae, due to nerve impingement or nerve entrapment at the level of tiny foramina. In long standing cases, symptoms include numbness and parenthesis of upper limbs and/or limitation of neck motion.
Neck pain can be a symptom of just a muscle pull that may have occurred while sleeping on the wrong pillow or supporting the neck on a hard surface like sleeping on floor or on a couch or while travelling by air. However, in some cases, it may occur as a part of degenerative bone disease like osteoporosis or cervical disc herniation. Cervical vertebrae are separated by a thin layer of cartilage that offers gliding movement across cervical vertebrae; however, due to aging, menopause or spinal degenerative disease, this cartilaginous disc undergoes wear and tear changes that may lead to spinal disc herniation, manifesting as pain in 80% of the cases.
You must see a healthcare provider as early as possible if your neck pain is associated with any of the following symptoms indicating a more organic pathology. If your pain is chronic (persists more than 2-4 weeks) and does not go away with simple modifications, if your neck pain is getting worse, if neck pain is associated with numbness, weakness of upper or lower limbs, if you experience an episode of fall, loss of consciousness or paralysis or limitation of neck movement you must see a healthcare provider.
In most cases of long-standing moderate to severe neck pain, the ideal therapy advised is maintaining optimal neck support with the help of a cervical collar that helps in stabilizing neck muscles. Cervical neck support pillows are advised to people who develop muscle sprain due to improper sleeping habits.
Physical therapy is a non-surgical and a non-invasive mode of therapy that is effective in all types of neck pain, no matter how acute or chronic symptoms are. The aim of physical therapy is to help in improvement of pain symptoms and to prevent the nervous complications from occurring. Physiotherapists also work in collaboration with patients in order to improve neck posture. Long term efficacy of these exercises is manifested by strengthening of neck muscles, supporting damaged inter-vertebral discs and relieving the pressure from entrapped nerves.
Physical therapy exercises, primarily cervical traction, aims at alleviating the pressure from the cervical vertebrae that removed the pressure from nerves. Cervical traction exercises can be periodic or intermittent depending upon the symptoms. Sometimes, special devices are also advised to stabilize and pull neck muscles by the use of pulleys in moderately severe cases.
Other modes of therapy that is normally employed by physiotherapists and chiropractors include deep tissue massage which helps in reducing the intensity of pain by improving the blood circulation through tense and tender muscles. Moreover, massage also helps in releasing toxins from the tissue to kill the source of inflammation in tissues.
If you are experiencing chronic neck pain that is affecting your performance at work or your lifestyle in general, see your healthcare provider to discuss if physiotherapy may help your case.