Physiotherapy is the most common treatments for chronic neck pain. Most physiotherapy programs for neck pain involve using treatments to minimize pain and stiffness. After that, exercise programs are used to strengthen and increase the stretching capabilities of your neck.
The specific techniques and exercises used in physiotherapy, along with the duration of the treatment can differ from person to person.
Aim of Physiotherapy for Neck Pain
Physiotherapy for neck pain usually has the following aims:
- Minimize stiffness and pain
- Improve neck and head range of motion
- Develop dynamic strengthening for your neck and its supporting muscles
- Develop a plan that prevents pain from recurring
If pain cannot be eliminated, physiotherapy can still help you improve neck posture and function for daily movements.
When is Physiotherapy Recommended for Neck Pain
Physiotherapy for your neck pain can help in several cases. It can assist you in conditions like:
- Unspecified chronic pain: When neck pain keeps returning, the exact source of the pain can be challenging to identify. Even without conducting a diagnosis, increasing the strength of your neck’s muscles can help. Physiotherapy can assist you by strengthening your cervical spine and become more resistant to neck pain.
- Recovering from injury: Some injuries, such as whiplash, can damage your neck’s soft tissues and joints. This results in pain and stiffness that can stay for weeks or even longer. A physiotherapy program can minimize pain and help return your neck to normal functioning.
- Recovering from surgery: Surgeries performed on your neck can result in a lot of pain and stiffness. It can continue for weeks and months that follow. Physiotherapy can assist in working through this stiffness. It can also increase neck function and minimize or prevent pain in your muscles as they recover.
Physiotherapy for your neck is useful in other cases as well. It can be a part of a larger treatment plan for other diseases or chronic conditions.
When to Avoid Physiotherapy for Neck Pain
In some cases, physiotherapy cannot help reduce neck pain. Instead, it can worsen the problem even more. Physiotherapy is usually not recommended for chronic neck pain if you have any of the following conditions:
1. Significant spinal instability: In some cases, the cervical spine is not stable enough for exercise. Instability occurs if a vertebral bone is fractured, or if spinal degeneration leads to compression of the spinal cord or a nerve root. In such a condition, your spine has to be stabilized first. This will prevent further injury before resuming a physiotherapy program.
2. Severe underlying medical issue: If your neck pain is due to an infection or tumour, the underlying cause has to be solved first. For example, if a cancerous tumour is causing you neck pain, doing exercises will not minimize the tumour size. Instead, it can grow and make your condition even worse.
Some other reasons for not using physiotherapy also exist, such as if your body cannot tolerate the treatment well.
Physiotherapy Treatment Methods
There are 2 common methods of physiotherapy:
1. Passive physiotherapy: It involves applying treatments which require no effort from your side. Several treatment methods are available, such as:
- Heat therapy
- Massage therapy
- Applying ice packs
The main aim of passive physiotherapy is to help minimize pain and swelling in your neck.
2. Active physiotherapy: It involves you moving your own body for exercises and stretches. This type of physiotherapy helps in improving strength and flexibility in your neck. So, the muscles become less painful, and you are better able to maintain good posture. A good posture also reduces stress on your cervical spine.
Physiotherapy for neck pain begins with passive treatments. Over time, more active treatments are slowly added to the physiotherapy program.
How Effective is Physiotherapy for Neck Pain?
Several studies have examined whether or not physiotherapy can help minimize lower back or neck pain.
The results are that physiotherapy can play a role in reducing neck pain and improving range of motion. Physiotherapy, when used with other treatment programs, like aerobic activity, has proved to be more effective.
However, physiotherapy’s results depend on how well you are willing to follow a prescribed program. If you do exercise with poor form or not consistently, it can reduce the chances of the treatment working.