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Neck Pain? Solutions and Exercises

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"I just want this pain in my neck and these headaches to go away!"physical therapy, posture alignment and getting rid of neck pain

I hear this complaint often. Neck pain is very common, and I have found that most people who complain of neck pain also complain of headaches. Sometimes neck pain is caused by injury, but sometimes it is not injury related at all. Car accidents, falls, and even contact sports are common ways of injuring the neck. Whip-lash occurs and the discs in between the vertebrae can be damaged. If discs in the upper or cervical spine are damaged, this can cause headaches because bones are pushing on nerves, which can also cause numbness and tingling in the arms and hands.

Muscular tightness is a cause of neck pain and headaches as well. To reduce muscle tension and even the effects of damaged discs, maintaining the proper posture at all times is a MUST!

The first thing we look at, as Physical Therapists, is a person’s posture. Incorrect posture can lead to many problems and cause pain all over the body, not just the neck. The type of posture we typically see in physical therapy is referred to as "kyphotic." The chin and neck extend forward, the shoulders round forward and the upper spine can even start to round or flex. These muscles pull at the base of the skull causing headaches and neck pain. Also, if the muscles that are made to support the head and neck are over stretched due to poor posture, they become weak. To combat this, the muscles on either side of the spine need to be strengthened in a safe way through spinal stabilization exercises. Strong upper neck and spine muscles will make maintaining a correct posture easier.

how to alleviate pain from bad posturePosture Evaluation: The easiest way to determine proper posture is by drawing an imaginary line down the side of the body. The line should show that the ear is in line with the shoulder, the shoulder is in line with the hip, and the hip is in line with the rest of the lower leg. This will reduce a forward head, rounded shoulder posture. This is the start to reducing neck pain.

If there are other underlying causes, like disc damage, other interventions are available. Physical therapy often works by relieving pressure on a disc or nerves as well as performing strengthening or stabilization exercises to reduce the effects of weak neck muscles. Also, gentle stretching is used to reduce the tension on the other muscles supporting the head and neck.

If you suffer from neck pain and headaches, don't just live with it! There are ways to reduce the discomfort, even if it has been going on for years. Contact a physical therapist for body alignment and posture training and get rid of that pain in your neck!

Contributed by Krista Magnoli, PTA @ WPBPhysicalTherapyCenter.com

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