Chronic neck pain is something that can affect your work and personal life. If you have been suffering with neck pain for greater than 3 months then you would be categorized as having “chronic” neck pain. You don’t need to suffer anymore!
Neck pain can be caused by several different things including muscle spasms, joint restrictions in your neck or upper back, weakness in your neck or shoulder blade muscles, a disc herniation, or arthritis in your neck. Neck pain can also be associated with your posture or work station.
If you are experiencing any of the above issues then you should contact a physical therapist (PT). They will be able to evaluate you by taking you through a series of tests and measures along with functional tests to determine why you are suffering. An evaluation will assess your neck range of motion, your neck, arm, and upper back strength, as well as the mobility of your joints of the neck, upper back, and shoulders. Other functional tests that might be screened are your posture when you are sitting or working at your computer, how your body moves when you reach overhead and when you lift something off the floor. These tests will help the PT determine why you are having your neck pain.
Your PT will then develop an individualized exercise plan to address your areas of weakness and joint restriction. These exercises will help you achieve proper posture (e.g. getting your ear in line with your shoulder and your shoulder in line with your hip) in order to avoid forward head position and rounding of your upper back. The PT will also help to educate you on proper work station set up. Ideally, your wrists are below the elbow, the computer screen is in front of you, feet are flat on the floor and knees are below the hips. (1)
In addition to an exercise routine and education on proper body mechanics, your PT will perform manual therapy on you as well. Manual therapy is when the PT stretches your muscles and assists your joints to move. Research has shown that if your upper back is moving well, this will decrease the strain to the neck muscles and joints, decreasing your neck pain and improving your quality of life. The combination of both exercise and manual therapy can help to reduce your neck pain symptoms, reduce your sick leave from work, reduce the need for pain medication and improve your ability to function at home and at work! (2, 3)
How long have you been suffering with neck pain? What position seems to really cause you the most discomfort?