A physical therapist can help you get rid of your neck pain. What’s more, you’ll learn how to stretch and strengthen your neck, stand properly, and even do exercises that will keep the pain from coming back.
Physical therapy often provides the best treatment for neck pain, not only providing relief, but also teaching you techniques to prevent re-injury and avoid neck pain in the future.
Neck Therapy: How It Works
Physical therapy for neck pain focuses on strengthening and improving the muscles, tendons, and ligaments that support the vertebrae. The main goals of neck therapy are:
- To stretch and strengthen muscles in the affected areas, accelerating the healing process by reducing neck pain and swelling, while making muscles more flexible and strong.
- To teach posture and other body mechanics that can protect the neck and spine, preventing future neck pain.
- To show patients how to take care of pain flare-ups if re-injury occurs.
A physical therapist will always start by asking you questions designed to help figure out the scope of the problem, everything from your lifestyle to medical history. If your neck pain was caused by major trauma or disease, your physical therapist will consult with your doctor.
Neck Therapy: Your Personalized Plan
The physical therapist’s next step is to create a treatment plan to help relieve your neck pain. In addition to giving you exercises to improve your flexibility, strength, and stability, other options include:
- Application of ice or heat
- Electrical stimulation of muscle groups
- Neck traction
- Massage therapy
Most physical therapy sessions last about an hour, although the time can vary. The total number of sessions will depend on the particular circumstances of your neck pain. Some patients need only a few sessions, while others may require months of therapy.
Neck Therapy: Education and Exercise
Your physical therapist will teach you how to avoid future problems by showing you how to sit, stand, and move with proper posture. The therapist might evaluate the ergonomics of your home and workplace to make sure your environment doesn’t lend itself to re-injury.
Low-impact aerobic exercises like swimming or walking can be helpful in decreasing neck pain. Your physical therapist can design a pain-free exercise program just for you, beyond the strengthening and flexibility exercises that form the core of your therapy. After you’ve completed your physical therapy, you will be able to work on your own, with stretches, exercises, and other practices designed to keep neck pain at bay.
Neck Therapy: Finding a Physical Therapist
Your primary care doctor or orthopedist may give you a referral to a physical therapist as part of your overall treatment. To locate a physical therapist on your own, visit the Web site of the American Physical Therapy Association and search the database of its members.
Individual physical therapy sessions generally cost between $100 and $150. If you choose to attend a group physical therapy session, the cost will be slightly less. Many health insurance providers cover physical therapy, so you might only have to provide a co-pay. Federally qualified HMOs are required by law to include physical therapy in their benefits.
To find out the extent to which your insurance covers physical therapy, you should ask your insurance company or your employer’s human resources director:
- If you need a referral from your primary care physician
- Whether you can use physical therapy to treat more than one condition in a year
- Whether your insurance covers your physical therapy until your neck pain is completely cured
- Whether you’ll be able to go back to the physical therapist from time to time if your neck pain is chronic
Following the right physical therapy should not only enable you to feel better faster, but also stay pain-free following your recovery.
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