Neck pain is a common problem among adults and with the help of smartphones and tablets, is becoming more frequent among young adults. Studies have shown that the incidence of neck pain is increasing making it second only to low back pain in worker’s compensation costs. Seventy percent of adults will experience neck pain in their lifetime and over fifty percent of adults have experienced neck pain in the last six months. Symptoms of cervical dysfunction may include dizziness and headaches as well as neck pain. Neck pain may be a result of trauma, stress, poor posture, static or repetitive movements.
Physical therapy can be effective in treating many types of neck pain. The combination of modalities, manual therapy, and exercise, as well as postural and ergonomic correction, is proven to provide the best long-term results. It’s also important to look at the whole body for postural issues as well as movement disorders that could cause increased stress on the neck. Chronic neck pain may be from altered patterns of muscle activation with upper extremity use, resulting in the increased use of the accessory muscles. The increased use of these muscles along with the decreased use of the neck flexors can lead to decreased ability for neck stabilization which can result in neck pain, headaches or dizziness.
Physical therapists can design a specific program to restore alignment and muscular stabilization, resulting in decreased neck pain. Range of motion and posture can be improved with cervical and scapular strengthening exercises, which are an integral part of any physical therapy program for the neck. However, no physical therapy program for neck pain is complete without patient education. This includes a home exercise program along with the postural and ergonomic correction. This is specific to each patient and also encompasses all aspects of life including sleeping, work, and recreation.
See if your posture may be contributing to your neck pain.
Posture IQ Quiz
1. When you’re sitting at the computer are you:
A. Leaning into the computer with your head closest to the screen?
B. Sitting upright with your back to the office chair?
2. Is your keyboard:
A. Positioned in the middle of the desk (forcing you into a reach)?
B. Directly in front of you at the edge of your desk?
3. Is your computer screen:
A. At an angle or tilted
B. At eye level, directly in front of you
4. When driving, can you feel your head against the headrest?
A. No, I’m leaned forward looking out the windshield
B. Yes, and I use the lumbar support feature in my car
If you answered A to 2 or more questions, you’re most likely going to suffer from posture-related symptoms throughout your life.
If you answered B to most questions, you’ve got an excellent posture IQ and will save yourself years of potential back, neck, and shoulder pain.
(Quiz provided by Life Fitness Physical Therapy – Ellicott City, MD)