Sometimes simple home interventions are enough to treat cervical disc disease, in which an abnormality in one or more discs that lie between the vertebrae cause neck pain. Often, though, it helps to see a physical therapist that can treat abnormalities, show you how to stretch and strengthen your neck and vertebrae, improve your posture, and prevent neck pain from recurring. You may also consider going to see a chiropractor. In the majority of people, certain exercises and manipulations used by these health care providers can help relieve discomfort and restore movement.
When you visit a physical therapist, you’ll first have a complete evaluation. The physical therapist will examine your neck and assess how well you can move your neck. You may be asked about symptoms such as pain in the neck or between the shoulder blades, pain that radiates down the arm to the hand or fingers, or numbness or tingling in the shoulder or arm. The exam will check your strength. reflexes, and other potential sources of pain.
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You can wreck your back in any number of ways, but a few major offenders stand out: Not stretching, not paying attention to your movements, and years of wear and tear, says Nick Shamie, MD, associate professor of orthopedic neurosurgery at UCLA and a spokesman for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
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There are several types of manipulations and exercises your physical therapist or chiropractor can use to relieve stiffness, strengthen the area, and restore normal function of the neck. Treatments such as cold or heat application, deep tissue massage, electrical stimulation, and ultrasound may be used prior to exercise.
During physical therapy, you will practice a range of exercises to stretch and strengthen the muscles that support your neck. You’ll also learn how to improve your posture and range of motion. To help you learn proper postures, the physical therapist might have you stand in front of a mirror while exercising so that you can see your mistakes and correct them.
Chiropractors use some of the same techniques as physical therapists. Gentle adjustments may help restore normal neck function and help alleviate pain. As with physical therapy, chiropractors manipulate the neck and thoracic joints to reduce stiffness, improve mobility, and increase range of motion. These adjustments might be unsuitable and potentially risky for people with vascular problems in the neck, such as carotid artery stenosis, or advanced osteoarthritis.
Your physical therapist, chiropractor, or medical doctor should determine whether you are at risk of further injury from manipulations before treating you.