Neck pain can be a real, well… pain in the neck. All neck pain is not the same: a number of different issues could be causing your pain. Regardless, the effects are significant in their impact on your daily life.
What Is This Feeling?
Neck pain can present in many ways. Some people simply wake with neck pain and very limited movement, noting “I just couldn’t turn my head”. Some patients note a gradual tightening around their neck or aching in a shoulder blade. Others still may have good range of motion, but a sharp pain with movement. Have numbness, tingling, or a shooting pain in your arm? That may also be originating from your neck. Each type of neck pain gives us a little clue as to what’s happening on the inside.
Whether your neck pain is mild, moderate, or severe, it often has a big effect on your daily life. It can keep you from reading or driving your car. Activities at work such as typing or using the phone can suddenly be a painful, arduous task. Going for a run, getting through a spin or yoga class, getting through a HIIT class or playing sports may be impossible. And at home, neck pain can keep you from reaching high cabinets, carrying groceries, or even sleeping through the night.
What Is Happening Here?
The neck has a rather important job of holding your head up. It is also the passageway for food, air, blood supply to the brain, while protecting the all-important spinal cord and nerves to the rest of the body. With all of the work that it does on a daily basis, it’s no wonder that it is so prone to injuries and wear-and-tear.
In between each of the vertebrae of the spine is a disc. The disc maintains space between the vertebrae, but can get herniated and press on nerves. Disc degeneration happens over time, and results in more wear on joints and can decrease the space that nerves need to travel through. Arthritis is an inflammation in the small joints of the neck. Stenosis is a narrowing of the canal space for the spinal cord or peripheral nerves. Each of these issues on their own can be specific sources of pain.
How Did This Happen?
The origin of neck pain may be very simple: car accidents, falls and head injuries may be accompanied by neck pain. Sometimes, these traumas may have happened 5, 10, or 20 years prior, but are just now problematic. Heavy lifting, pushing or pulling with poor form may result in a disc herniation. However, it is often poor posture that is the culprit, especially if a person sits for long periods of time. It is also common for people with shoulder issues to also have neck pain. The neck and shoulder are very closely related, which is why we evaluate, assess and treat both regions at the same time.
How Do We Fix This?
Neck pain may be treated in a variety of ways. Simple, at-home remedies such as anti-inflammatory medications, heat, massage, and topical creams may help to address your pain. While these may take the pain down to a manageable level, the underlying issue may still not have been addressed. Working with a manual physical therapist can help not only to reduce your pain, but actually identify the underlying issues and develop a plan to help you address the root cause. Through hands-on treatment, overall mechanics can be improved as well as address weaknesses with an exercise program tailored for your specific needs.
Most importantly, a PT can help you with your posture and alignment. How are you sitting throughout your workday? How are you lifting weights, or your children? How are you sleeping every night? Improving how you use your body on a daily basis is probably the most important goal in physical therapy.
Have questions? We’re happy to answer any questions you might have about how we can help you! Give us a call at (646) 430-5717 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to speak with a Doctor of Physical Therapy. We even offer a free 30-minute “No Sweat” Discovery Visit to see if we’re a good fit. It’s our passion to help you feel better and get back to the things you love doing!
Mark M Lusk, DPT, OCS, CSCS, CFMT