neck pain

Neck Pain & Headache

Your neck is an incredibly sensitive and complex part of your body. For this reason, neck pain can be debilitating. It can also be scary and stressful, especially when you aren’t sure of the cause of the pain, or have a clear understanding of when the pain may go away.

Neck pain can come in a wide variety of forms. It can be chronic or acute, sharp or dull, but whatever the type and cause, all neck pain shares one clear detail in common: It needs to be addressed, and quickly. Ignoring your neck pain can lead to complications with your injury and in some situations can even lead to worsened pain! The smart thing to do is to get help—and as quickly as possible.

The Cause of Neck Pain

The neck is directly connected to the spine and head. This means that it is at a crucial position in the body, but one that makes it more susceptible to serious issues. Neck pain can develop after a serious back injury, or it can develop as tension builds due to emotional stressors. Identifying the cause of your neck pain is step one in determining the right treatment.

Common causes of neck pain include:

  • Whiplash, as from a car accident or similar injury
  • Poor posture
  • Repeated motion
  • Tension build-up

Neck Pain and Headaches

One of the reasons neck pain is so common is due to the number of nerve endings present in the neck area. The cervical plexus is the home to eight different spinal nerves, each of them branching off at one end toward the cerebral column, and at the other end toward the spine and shoulders. Because of this, pain that starts in the neck will often travel to the shoulders, the back, and even into the head itself.

This is why neck pain is so largely associated with headaches, including migraine headaches. In some situations, chronic headaches could be caused by neck pain, and in some circumstances, physical therapy to address neck pain could reduce the frequency and severity of migraine headaches.

Sometimes, the neck pain may seem dull and unimportant, but it could still be the core of much larger problems. In addition, neck pain is often responsible for limiting your range of motion and can cause tension to build up in your shoulders, potentially causing even more pain.

Physical Therapy for Neck Pain

There are a series of practices available through physical therapy proven to be helpful in addressing neck pain. Musculoskeletal experts have found that targeted exercises that improve flexibility, strength, and range of motion are much more effective at treating neck pain than are medicinal treatments.

Typically, physical therapy for neck pain will incorporate manual therapy, which includes movement and trigger point therapy to alleviate tension in the neck, as well as stretching and strengthening targeted exercises. In addition, your physical therapist may want to do a series of imaging tests, including an ultrasound, to have a clearer understanding of what is causing the pain in the neck, and this could lead to more specified treatment options.

Many physical therapists will be able to make ergonomic recommendations that can help you reduce neck pain by providing your neck with more targeted support when you drive, sit at your desk, and even when you sleep. This can be an additional helpful source of support.

Neck pain is not something you should deal with long-term. The sooner you can solve the mystery of your neck pain, the sooner you can get back to your day-to-day life. For more information about treating neck pain with physical therapy, contact us.