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Why Doctors May Recommend Physical Therapy for Neck Pain
Why Doctors May Recommend Physical Therapy for Neck Pain

Neck pain is a common medical complaint.  There are many possible causes ranging from neck sprain or strain, overuse, injury or trauma, joint problems such as arthritis, and spinal degeneration.  Many people experience neck pain that interferes with their daily activities.  Depending on the specific diagnosis, the physician may recommend physical therapy as a non-surgical treatment.  Some conditions respond well to a physical therapy program that helps the patient to improve and maintain functional abilities.

Benefits of Physical Therapy

The following are some of the benefits of physical therapy:

  • Less invasive treatment – Physical therapy is a conservative, non-surgical approach to treatment.  Patients are taught practical skills to protect their neck against further injury as they heal and return to normal activities.  Many patients will be able to prevent their condition from becoming chronic and avoid surgery.
  • Recovery from injury – Not all injuries or traumas require surgery.  However, targeted interventions can reduce pain, stabilize the area, and promote healing.
  • Follow up to surgery – Gentle stretches and exercises done post-surgery can decrease inflammation and swelling and help the patient cope with pain.  This is particularly important after disc surgery and spinal fusion.

Common Goals of Physical Therapy

The following are some common goals of physical therapy:

  • Pain Relief – Passive physical therapy treatments can be effective at reducing pain.  There is less need for the patient to take pain medication.
  • Strengthen supporting muscles – Strengthening supporting muscles can help prevent re-injury.
  • Increase range of motion – Physical therapy can help increase mobility and range of motion.  Flexibility and stability are enhanced.

Types of Physical Therapy that May Help Neck Problems

Passive therapies

  • Ice and Heat – Ice reduces swelling, inflammation, and pain.  Heat relaxes muscles and increases circulation, which contributes to healing. 
  • Ultrasound – Uses high-frequency sound waves to deliver heat deep into tissues.
  • Electrical stimulation – Painless electrical current produces heat that reduces pain and stiffness and improves range of motion.
  • Dry needling – Thin, sterilized, stainless steel needles are placed in trigger points of muscles and tissue to relax spasms.

Active therapies

  • Exercises – Therapeutic exercises build strength, flexibility, and balance.  The program is customized to meet individual needs of the patient.
  • Cervical traction – Lightly pulls on the head to create space between the vertebrae in the neck.  Traction devices can be purchased for at home use.

Next Steps

Physical therapy allows patients to take an active role in their recovery.  The physicians at Atlanta Brain and Spine Care recommend physical therapy when appropriate.  If you are suffering from neck pain and loss of mobility, contact us today to schedule an appointment with one of our physicians.

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