Whom does it affect?
Neck pain, or cervicalgia, will affect 22-70% of individuals at some point throughout their lives. Prevalance increases with age, most commonly reported around the fifth decade of life. Women more frequently report cervical symptoms, including neck pain, headache, and muscular fatigue associated with posture. Recurrance rates of pain are often high and can lead to chronicity, with pain lasting longer than 12 months in some cases.
The cervical spine is made up of seven (7) cervical vertebrae, each with discs separating adjacent levels. The vertebrae house many important neural and vascular structures that travel from the brain and skull to the upper extremities and the rest of the body. Pain in the cervical region can be accompanied by neural complaints, including numbness and tingling into the upper extremities, often indicating nerve irritation is present. Abnormal postural positions or repetitive motions of the spine can lead to imbalances in muscular strength and flexibility of the deep cervical musculature, shoulders/scapular stabilizers, and can even affect musculature and joints into the upper thoracic spine. Normal aging processes can lead to conditions such as degenerative disc disease (DDD) as well as cervical region arthritis, which can be painful, and debilitative processes affecting joint mobility and leading to reduced functional use of the cervical region, making turning the head painful and difficult. Neck pain can also be accompanied by headaches which often affect the sub occipital region, which is a small, but dense region of muscles and nerves at the base of the skull.
Treatment: How Physical Therapy Can Help!
Physical therapy treatments may consist of a variety of approaches. Manual techniques such as joint mobilizations, soft tissues massage, traction, and musculature stretching/strengthening of key muscle groups in the neck, shoulders, and thoracic spine will aid in reducing pain. If headaches exists, physical therapy can often reduce their frequency and intensity of symptoms with use of sub occipital techniques aimed at specific structures to target the source of the headaches. Exercises, which can be performed in the clinic as well as at home, will help the patient learn self-management to reduce pain and prevent recurrence of future symptoms. A physical therapist will also be able to provide ergonomic advice to help reduce pain and the abnormal postures that sometimes lead to the onset of cervical region pathology and pain.
If you are currently experiencing neck pain or have a history of neck pain/headaches, consider consulting a physical therapist. Direct Access allows a person to see their physical therapist for up to 30 days without a physician referral. This allows a physical therapist to begin treating your neck pain immediately, allowing for a quicker return to pain-free activities and referral to alternative treatment and imaging studies in needed.
Contact Your Local Physical Therapist Today To Discover More Ways To Improve Your Quality Of Life!
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