Neck Pain & Headaches Relief
Neck pain comes in many different forms. It may be acute or chronic, dull or sharp, but either way, it is frustrating and should be addressed. So why do so many of us ignore it, hoping it will go away on its own? If you’re suffering from acute or chronic neck pain, it’s time to get help. We can get you on the road to recover with a customized physical therapy plan.
Some people look at pain as the whole problem rather than the symptom it is. Our bodies use pain as an indicator that there is an underlying disease, injury, problem, or condition. In fact, pain’s basic biological function is to alert you to an injury and keep you from further harm. For instance, if you burn yourself on the stove, the painful blister serves as a reminder of the hazards of heat. Pain is a complex communication of nerve endings to your brain. It may happen as the result of damage to the tissue where the nerve endings live (such as when you burn yourself) or it may happen when the nerve impulses that travel to and from your brain are interrupted (when there is some form of nerve damage).
What Causes Neck Pain?
The simple answer to this question is, it depends. In many cases, neck pain can be traced back to a single event or injury. Perhaps you are in a car accident and experience neck pain after the wreckage is cleared. Or maybe you are reliving your glory days at a heavy metal concert only to have your neck suddenly seize up. Chronic neck pain can also happen when you sit slumped over your desk, have poor standing posture, drive a car or truck for a living, or repeatedly move your head in a certain motion for work.
The Neck Pain-Headache Connection
There are eight spinal nerves that branch off of the spinal cord into the neck forming something called the cervical plexus. These nerves then have branches that end in different parts of your head, neck, and shoulders. That is why it is no surprise that someone experiencing neck pain also tends to experience a greater number of headaches that also tend to be severe. For some people, addressing neck pain can also resolve many of their headache symptoms. But this connection is not limited to pain in the neck. In fact, you do not necessarily have to be in a lot of pain in your neck to have more frequent and severe headaches. Your neck’s strength, a range of motion and flexibility can also impact your cervical plexus’ function. If you cannot move your neck from side to side, you tend to hold greater tension in your shoulders which, in turn, can lead to headaches. Likewise, if your neck muscles cannot hold your head in its proper position, you will tend to experience more pain in your head from the strain.
Physical Therapy For Neck Pain
Fortunately, the answer to relieving neck pain and limiting headache days is not found in a bottle. Physical therapists are musculoskeletal experts who can help you improve your neck’s strength, mobility, flexibility, and range of motion. Even though many people associate physical therapy with surgery, physical therapists are adept at helping everyone improve their quality of movement whether they have had surgery or not.
Your physical therapist will begin by performing a thorough evaluation which may include imaging studies that can help rule out any underlying injuries that could be made worse by therapy. They will discuss their findings and create a customized treatment plan to address your body’s unique needs. That is when the magic begins.
Physical therapy may include:
- Manual therapy – Manipulating the neck through massage, movement or trigger point therapy.
- Ultrasound – New technologies allow physical therapists to use ultrasound waves to break up any scar tissue and aid in healing after an injury.
- Targeted exercises – Stretching and strengthening the muscles around your neck will help you regain your muscular endurance for everyday life.
- Ergonomic recommendations – If your job requires you to sit at a computer, perform repetitive tasks, or otherwise exacerbate your neck pain, your physical therapists may suggest adjustments to your desk, chair or routine that will help prevent further injury.