Physical Therapy for Neck and Shoulder Pain
If you’re dealing with neck pain from an injury or from overuse, physical therapy is a safe and effective way to reduce discomfort, improve mobility and strength. A physical therapist will identify the source of your discomfort and teach you strategies for avoiding future episodes of neck discomfort.
People often seek physical therapy for chronic neck and shoulder pain that won’t go away or has become worse. The discomfort can be so debilitating that it prevents you from doing what you need or want to do.
Your physical therapist (PT) will begin by performing a comprehensive evaluation of your neck and shoulder muscles and joints, as well as checking posture and strength to pinpoint the source of any neck and shoulder pain and its effect on daily activities.
You’ll learn a series of neck exercises to increase your range of motion and reduce pain. These can usually be performed in the office by a physical therapist or at home by your PT or chiropractor.
Physical therapists may recommend the head and shoulder roll, which helps to loosen stiffness in the neck and shoulders. This stretch can be done as a warm-up before other neck exercises.
Chin tucks are an effective physical therapy neck exercise that can provide pain and discomfort from overuse injuries. To do this exercise safely and comfortably, you will need a firm mattress or pillow for support.
Shoulder rolls are an effective physical therapy neck exercise that can be done as a warm-up to strengthen upper arm muscles and increase range of motion. Simply lift your arms above your head, then slowly roll them forward and back. Repeat ten times.
This exercise can be performed while sitting, standing or lying down. For best results, keep your head up and focus on looking forward.
Physical therapists can suggest a variety of neck and shoulder exercises. Popular choices include stretching, tilting, and chin-ups.
You might also be asked to lie on your side with your head elevated. This position helps minimize strain on the neck when sleeping or relaxing.
Effective neck pain treatments begin with an assessment by a physical therapist or chiropractor who understands the source of your discomfort. They will use hands-on techniques and technologies like electrical stimulation or cervical traction as needed to address the issue.
Dry needling and ultrasound are two treatments that may alleviate the pain associated with chronic neck and shoulder issues. Both involve inserting filiform needles or transducers over the skin to loosen tight bands of muscle to reduce discomfort and increase range of motion.
Some patients with chronic neck and shoulder pain respond well to massage, which helps release scar tissue that causes discomfort. Your therapist will apply pressure on soft tissue using a specialized metal tool, encouraging the body to heal itself and relieving tension that could otherwise lead to numbness, tingling, or sharp pain sensations.