Neck Pain. It is painful, greatly limiting, and it affects your ability to move in ways that you once took for granted. If you are like 75 percent of us, you have experienced neck pain at some point in your life. Though the metaphorical “pain in the neck” may just be a mild annoyance that you can successfully ignore, neck pain is a serious issue that affects so many of us and can lead to significant pain and loss of function if not treated promptly and thoroughly. Neck pain, the fourth leading cause of disability, accounts for a large part of the 88 billion dollars in annual healthcare costs for neck and back pain in the US.
Neck pain should not be ignored. If your neck pain is taking a toll on your life, seek care from an expert right away. Axes Physical Therapy is the leading St. Louis area provider of physical and occupational therapy and can provide you with the personalized and proven neck pain treatment you need to eliminate your pain and return you to the activities you enjoy. To discover what we can do to address your neck pain, contact us today.
Causes and Risk Factors of Neck Pain
Neck pain is a common condition that the vast majority of us will experience at some point in our lives. We depend upon the intricate and complex structures that make up the cervical spine to protect our vital nervous system, provide support to our head, and allow us the flexibility and range of motion that make many activities and tasks possible. As such a complex region of the body, the neck is susceptible to pain and impairment due to overuse, injury and trauma, illnesses, and other conditions.
Common Neck Pain Causes
- Sprains and strains
- Direct trauma
- Joint degeneration
- Bulging disc
- Pinched nerve
At some point in our lives, an estimated 75% of us will suffer from some type of neck pain. For many, that neck pain will be manageable and may even resolve itself without the need for extensive treatment. However, many other neck pain patients are not so lucky. More than half and as many as 85% of neck pain sufferers experience a recurrence of their pain within one to five years and 37% of neck pain patients develop chronic neck pain lasting more than one year.
Neck pain is a prevalent problem that can clearly affect anyone. However, there are certain risk factors that make an individual more susceptible to neck pain. Some of these factors are:
- Occupation – Office workers, healthcare workers, and manual laborers are the occupations most likely to develop neck pain. However, when considering the relationship between occupations and neck pain, there is an even stronger relationship between individuals who suffer from neck pain and those whose work causes them stress and unhappiness, regardless of the industry or occupation.
- Weight – With comparatively less muscle strength and more stress on the joints and skeletal system, those who are overweight or obese are more likely to experience neck pain.
- Posture – We have a term for it these days: “text neck.” Poor posture is an obvious aggravator of neck and spine issues including neck pain. For every 15 degrees of forward bend in the neck, the strain on the cervical spine nearly doubles.
- Smoking – Smoking can accelerate disc degeneration and cause pain in the neck, throughout the back, and in other joints.
- Stress – We know that stress can wreak havoc on the body in many ways. Neck pain due to stress is more than merely carrying tension. The physiological stress response also enlarges blood vessels in the muscles, restricts neck and shoulder movement, and heightens the perception of pain.
Physical Therapy for Neck Pain
Due to the complex nature of the spine and the high rate of recurring neck pain, proper care and treatment after experiencing neck pain are essential. Physical therapy is one of the most common forms of treatment for patients suffering from neck pain. This is with good reason, as evidence supports it as a highly effective neck pain treatment strategy. Though in some cases additional treatments beyond physical therapy may be required, physical therapy is a much safer choice than surgery or medication.
Physical therapy is an easily accessible, low-risk, non-invasive form of treatment that addresses the cause of your neck pain. It offers neck pain patients a way to heal as safely and as thoroughly as possible. Through a combination of hands-on manual therapies, exercise, and education, physical therapy treatment for neck pain can be successful in reducing pain and stiffness while improving the range of motion needed for pain-free activity. Additionally, physical therapy can assist with stretching and strengthening muscles affecting the neck, shoulder, shoulder blade, and core, all while implementing preventative practices to avoid the risk of future pain or injury, like posture education and work-station adaptation.
With a quality physical therapy program designed to your unique neck condition and goals, you can soon enjoy restored mobility, flexibility, strength, and range of motion. At Axes Physical Therapy, your neck pain care will be tailored to the cause of your neck pain and your goals for managing the condition. Your dedicated physical therapist may design your neck pain treatment plan to include some of the following strategies:
- Stretching – stretches and exercises to improve the strength and range of motion of the muscles connected to the cervical spine
- Core, shoulder, and back strengthening – conditioning to strengthen muscles in the torso, shoulder, and scapular region that work together to support and provide stability to the cervical spine and upper extremities
- Aerobic activity – low impact cardiovascular exercise that increase body strength and blood flow
- Traction – separating the vertebrae reduces pressure and allows inflamed and irritated nerves and discs to heal
- Postural correction – training and demonstration to develop better posture, using lumbar support and other assistive devices when appropriate
- Joint mobilization and manipulation – a manual therapy in which your physical therapist gently moves the joint to mimic normal joint and tissue movement to gradually restore regular joint function and range of motion
- Trigger point dry needling – direct targeting of irritated or tight muscle tissue areas releases and relaxes the irritated tissue, making it possible for the muscle to regain its range of motion
- Massage – manual manipulation and massage of soft tissue and trigger points that helps release tension
- Therapeutic modalities – things like ultrasound therapy and electrical nerve and muscle stimulation therapies can supplement other therapies
- Heat and ice – local application of heat and/or ice can reduce pain and swelling
- Ergonomic modifications and devices – to prevent complication and further neck pain, support devices can be used for sleeping, sitting, working at a desk, etc
- Posture correction – training on proper posture to minimize the amount of pressure put on the neck, reduce pain, and avoid further neck pain issues
Neck Pain Symptoms
In order to understand the nature of your neck pain and formulate the best method of care, your Axes physical therapist will perform an examination to evaluate your condition. Pain, of course, is the primary symptom of neck pain. However, the spine is a brilliantly complex and versatile structure within the human body and the cervical spine, or the neck portion of the spine, is no exception. Different neck pain causes may manifest different symptoms and present distinct pain sensations.
Symptoms that can help diagnose your neck pain are:
- Numbness or tingling in the arms or hands
- Weakness in the arms
- Pain in the upper back, shoulders, arms, or hands
- Stiffness and immobility
- Increased pain when sneezing, coughing, reaching, etc
- Reduced range of motion
- Difficulty sleeping
- Pain that escalates during a certain time of the day, like in the morning or before going to sleep at night
The types of neck pain you might experience include:
Your physical therapist will ask you questions designed to understand the cause of your neck pain. In addition, they may conduct an examination designed to assess your range of motion, strength, tenderness, posture, and function. Our goal as your physical therapist is to gain as complete a picture as possible of your neck pain before beginning your care so that we can deliver the safest and most effective treatment available.
Care for your Neck Pain in St. Louis | Axes Physical Therapy
If you suffer from persistent or recurring neck pain, you are not alone. Axes recognizes that neck pain is a complex condition that affects many of us in St. Louis and throughout the United States and we are here to help. We offer accessible, safe, evidence-based neck pain care provided by licensed physical therapists who specialize in the spine. Our patient-centered approach, dedicated care, and highly qualified staff make it possible for you to find meaningful, lasting relief from your neck pain.
It is time for you to enjoy the activities you love and the pain relief you deserve. Our network of twelve locally owned and operated physical therapy facilities offer the highest quality neck pain care in the St. Louis area in a location that is convenient for you. Discover the effect that Axes’ physical therapy care can have on your neck pain by beginning your treatment right away. Contact us today or request an appointment now.