Recent studies have shown that medical utilization of spine pain has been steadily rising since 1995. Neck pain comes in all different shapes and sizes, including localized neck pain with range of motion impairments, pain down the arm, headaches arising from neck pain, and movement coordination disorders/whiplash-like conditions in the neck.
The cervical spine is a group of 7 vertebrae stacked on top of each other with intervertebral discs between each segment and nerves coming out between each segment that feeds the arm and parts of the upper back (thoracic spine) with all of this surrounded by musculature to support these structures. When any of these structures become dysfunctional, it can lead to significant pain which can interfere with daily, recreational, and functional activities.
The neck is capable of contributing to pain in several different areas that physical therapists are able to effectively treat. There can be underlying cervical causes associated with concussions which can contribute to headaches, dizziness, and vertigo. The neck can also present similarly to shoulder, elbow, and wrist pain and a comprehensive physical exam is required to determine the accurate source of pain and if its origin is from the cervical spine.
The Journal of Orthopedic Sports Physical Therapy has recently updated their clinical practice guidelines on how to effectively treat cervical spine pain by compiling all the most recent research and synthesizing the data to determine the most effective treatment for each variety of neck pain.
They found that:
• Cervical and thoracic manipulation and mobilization should be performed to increase range of motion and decrease pain.
• Exercises targeted at the neck and shoulder girdle musculature should be given to increase strength and endurance.
• Dry needling techniques can be used to the cervical and thoracic spine, as well as the arm to improve pain and muscle function.
• Education and advice to allow patients to return to their prior activities with minimal to no pain.
Here at Spine and Sports Physical Therapy, we use a combination of all of the suggested treatment techniques for the different causes and presentations of neck pain. We use spinal manipulation to both cervical and thoracic (upper back) spine, we use dry needling with or without electrical stimulation, instrument assisted soft-tissue massage, and exercise prescription tailored to your specific needs. For more information on these treatment techniques check out our services page.