Neck Conditions and Physical Therapy

Neck Pain is a common problem, with two-thirds of the population having neck pain at some point in their lives.  Many times patient will get confuse between neck and shoulder pain.  Some patient may develop both pain at same time.

What is Neck Pain?

Any pain behind neck, upper shoulder area consider as neck pain.  Patient may experience stiffness across their neck.  Neck pain could be localized behind neck sometimes when there is involvement of disc/nerve patient will also complain of radiating, numbness, tingling pain.  In extreme cases patient will have complain of weakness in arm, hand.

Most Common Causes:

Muscle strain, Tension, Stress, Poor posture, Trauma, Fracture, Whiplash, Ruptured disc, Sprain, Spinal Stenosis etc.

Symptoms and Signs:

Patient may feel soreness, mild pain to moderate pain in neck area.  The pain may spread down to upper shoulder, upper back area.  Patient may experience tightness/stiffness around neck and unable to turn head easily.  Patient may experience knot like feeling or lack of flexibility in muscles.

If there is pressure on spinal nerve, patient might have radiating pain going down to arm, numbness, tingling or weakness in their arm.

Chronic(untreated) neck pain may lead to irritability, fatigue, depression and trouble with activity of daily living.

Diagnostic Tests:

Most of the time upon physical exam your physician or Physical Therapist would know severity of your condition and will advice accordingly.

During the physical exam, your Doctor/Physical Therapist will check your neck movement. He or she will also look for tenderness, numbness, tingling, and weakness in your arms or hands.

Most physicians may recommend Physical Therapy, X-Ray, medication before they order CT-Scan or MRI.



Treatment of neck pain will be treated depend on their cause. For the majority of people, neck pain can be treated conservatively.  Physician/ Physical Therapist may recommend to apply hot packs or cold packs, rest, modification of  painful activity.  Other common treatments could include medication, body mechanics training, ergonomic advice and Physical Therapy

What kind of Physical Therapy patient will get with Neck problems?

Besides explaining your neck injury and precautions to you, Physical Therapist will also try to relieve your pain using modalities like:

Hot packs Cold packs Electrical stimulation Ultrasound

Do manual therapy, which may include:

Massage Nerve Mobilization Soft Tissue mobilization Trigger point release Manual Traction Muscle Energy Technique Joint Mobilization

Exercise programs may include:

Flexibility Exercises Strengthening exercises Specific Home Exercises


Surgery is indicated for instability, spinal cord compression, severe weakness in arm/hand which is progressing or other disease. Patient will need post surgical Physical Therapy.  Surgery is usually not indicated for disc problems not compressing spinal cord or pinched nerves.  Patient should try all conservative methods available before going for surgery.


Most of the patient will do very well with Physical Therapy and modifying life style, continuing active life style and in some cases specific exercises.


After you’ve had Neck pain, you could have it again, But there are some things you can do to help prevent it.

  • Maintain good posture all the time
  • If your work include lot of sitting get up frequently and walk around
  • Warm up well before sports and other gym exercises.
  • Using proper pillow which support your neck