Physical Therapy for neck pain is a specialized area of medicine devoted to the treatment of patients who have suffered neck pain due to any number of reasons. The goal of physical therapy for neck pain is to increase the range of motion and strength of the soft tissues surrounding the spine. When treating neck pain, the key focus of physical therapy is usually to enhance the strength and flexibility of the neck muscles and joints. These goals can best be achieved through progressive, active exercises designed specifically to work the soft tissues surrounding the neck and spine, slowly advancing the workload over time.
The most common problem areas to be treated by physical therapy are the soft tissue surrounding the spine, or the muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Many people suffer from a minor strain, which can be remedied through exercise. In some cases, a more significant injury or a completely torn muscle group may require reconstructive surgery. However, even in cases where major surgery is required, physical therapy can help to prevent loss of function in the affected area. The combination of exercise, stretching, and other techniques designed to increase the mobility of the spine and muscles can make a real difference in how well a patient’s body functions.
One common technique used in the treatment of mild to moderate neck pain is passive treatments. Passive treatments include using heat and ice, manual therapy, massage, and chiropractic manipulation. While these passive treatments can certainly be helpful, they do not provide immediate relief from pain or return stiffness to pre-injury levels. A strong combination of exercise, stretching exercises, and active relaxation techniques are the only approaches that will permanently reverse the loss of motion and strength that have occurred without passive treatments.
Once a patient begins to actively participate in a physical therapy program, they will learn techniques that allow them to build strength and stability into their core muscles. These exercises should be done in conjunction with stretching exercises that increase flexibility. This combination of techniques provides for total body conditioning which eliminates stiffness and pain. By keeping the muscles fit and properly conditioned, patients will be able to move their bodies without pain or restriction for an extended period of time. Stiffness can be eliminated from the spinal column entirely through the proper exercise and stretching of the muscles in the lumbar region.
Other types of physical therapy that may help include exercises that strengthen the soft tissues of the body. These exercises can help prevent loss of motion in areas that may be causing the injury. For example, strengthening the muscles around the soft tissues of the lower back can help to eliminate the cause of lower back pain. In addition, strengthening of the ligaments, tendons, and muscles can also prevent further injuries from occurring.
Physical therapy can also help patients improve strength in their neck muscles through the use of free weights and machine exercises. Machine exercises are beneficial because they work multiple joints at one time. They also isolate specific muscles by stimulating them during the exercise motion. Machines can also work with patients to prevent overuse injury, which is common with some types of exercises. By working with a skilled therapist, a patient can reap the benefits of a comprehensive treatment program that will improve their quality of life and eliminate the need for ongoing health care visits.