Treating Common Injuries and Inflictions

Cervical Spine Injuries

What is neck pain? What causes neck pain?

Pain located in the neck is a common orthopedic condition. Neck pain can originate from a number structures in the neck, such as a degenerative disc between the bony vertebrae, the muscles, tendons and ligaments of the neck and upper back. These structures can be damaged from trauma such as a fall or whiplash, or more commonly from chronic postural stress from poor sitting postures at the desk, in the car and in bed.

What are other symptoms that are associated with neck pain?

Neck pain can come with movement or holding certain positions and is commonly associated with pain, numbness and weakness in the upper extremity. Other symptoms can include difficulty swallowing, dizziness or lightheadedness in severe cases.

What are the structures of the neck?

There are seven vertebrae that are the bony building blocks of the spine in the neck (the cervical vertebrae) that form the spinal canal surrounding and protecting the spinal cord. Between the vertebrae are discs, which act as shock absorbers and allow for movement in all directions. The nerves exit the spinal cord through canals between in the vertebrae and are subject to compression when the discs bulge, creating the upper extremity pain, numbness or tingling.

How is neck pain diagnosed?

In diagnosing the cause of neck pain, it is important to review the history and location of the symptoms. In reviewing the history, the your physical therapist or doctor will note the progression of the pain and symptoms. The location, intensity, duration, and the presence of radiating pain are all pertinent to the evaluation. Any past injury to the neck is noted. Aggravating and/or relieving positions or motions are also recorded. The physical therapist will evaluate the range of motion in all directions and strength of the upper extremity muscles. Tenderness is detected during palpation of the muscles and vertebrae of the neck. An examination of the nervous system is performed to determine whether or not nerve involvement is present.

Further testing of undiagnosed neck pain can include x-ray evaluation, CAT scan, bone scan, MRI scan, myelogram, and electrical tests such as electromyography (EMG) and nerve conduction velocity test (NCV).

How is neck pain treated?

At Forster Physical Therapy the Physical Therapist will not only treat the symptoms but as important, teach you to protect your neck with instruction of the proper body mechanics for daily living. We will also advise you on appropriate levels of exercise. Symptom control measures involve treating the muscle spasm with ultrasound, neuroprobe and electric stimulation, stretching and manual therapy techniques. Once the pain has improved Physical Therapy must include re-strengthening the muscles of the neck, upper back and upper extremity that are quickly weakened when pain and spasm are experienced. At Forster Physical Therapy we make you an active participant in your rehab and not a passive recipient of our care. We will teach you how to fix yourself with the above-mentioned approach and stay healthy for life! We make you better than you were before! Mention this article and receive a free injury evaluation!

The treatment of neck pain depends on its precise cause. What does not work in our experience is rest alone. These injuries are mechanical in nature and require mechanical treatment. i.e. manual therapy techniques, stretching and strengthening exercises and improved posture and body mechanics. Also injections into the muscles or deep into the area around the nerve are sometimes needed but should never be the first line of treatment. Physical Therapy is used as the first treatment option by the best doctors and only if symptoms do not improve do more aggressive and invasive treatments become rational.

At Forster Physical Therapy we make you an active participant in your rehab and not a passive recipient of our care. We will teach you how to fix yourself with the above-mentioned approach and stay healthy for life! We make you better than you were before!

With over 30 years of experience in treating active people and athletes of all abilities, FPT's highly credentialed staff has helped thousands get back on their feet and enjoying the active, healthy lifestyle they desire.

Please call (310) 656-8600 to schedule an appointment.