Physical therapy for neck pain

Physical therapy for neck pain can be used to manage the long-term symptoms of certain cervical spine conditions, or to help a patient recover following cervical spine surgery. When employed as part of a course of conservative treatment for conditions such as spinal stenosis, degenerative disc disease or osteoarthritis, the goal of physical therapy is to improve the strength and flexibility of the neck muscles.

If neck pain is getting in the way of your everyday life, making it hard to get through a day of work or enjoy the time you spend with your family, learning about physical therapy for neck pain can be an important step in your care. As you work with your doctor to develop a care plan, this knowledge can help you make informed treatment decisions that can get you back to an active life.

Physical therapy techniques

The main method associated with physical therapy is targeted exercise to strengthen a particular area and restore function. In addition, physical therapists have other methods they can use for managing neck pain, including:

  • Nerve stimulation — also known as transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), this treatment involves attaching electrodes to the skin to run currents through the muscle, which is believed to help alleviate stiffness and increase mobility
  • Ultrasound — high-frequency sound waves are directed toward a specific part of the body to generate soothing heat via internal vibrations
  • Hot and cold application — heat is applied to various areas of the body increase blood flow and help alleviate muscle spasms, while cold slows blood flow to reduce swelling
  • Massage — the application of pressure during deep-tissue massage is used to release chronic muscle tension
  • Traction — stretching the spine, either by hand or machine, can help improve mobility and reduce pain

Physical therapy for neck pain is often combined with therapies like at-home exercise plans and epidural steroid injections. Many patients are able to experience meaningful symptom relief and return to normal function by following a physician-prescribed course of conservative treatment.

When surgery becomes an option

If physical therapy for neck pain and other options are not enough to manage your chronic spinal problems, your physician might present surgery as an option. Surgery is often treated as a last resort by doctors and patients alike due to the large incision, hospital stay and lengthy recuperation required by traditional open neck and back procedures.

If you are concerned about the difficulties and risks of surgery, contact Laser Spine Institute to find out how minimally invasive, outpatient spine surgery can help you get your life back. Reach out to our dedicated team today for your no-cost MRI review* to see if you may be a candidate for one of our procedures.