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Neck and Upper Back Rehabilitation

The neck and upper back get painful for two basic reasons: 1. A traumatic onset from an accident (motor vehicle, a fall or sports), 2. Persistent postural strain. In regards to a traumatic onset, the head and neck are vulnerable due to being unsupported in space and any kind of force which accelerates and then decelerates the head (whiplash effect) will strain the tissues and joints related to this area. In association with this effect is the neck has many specialized receptors monitoring the forces entering the neck and with a violent accident these can get misprogrammed. This can keep the neck muscles in a state of irritability and guarding as an ongoing situation. It is important to understand that this situation is not based exclusively on time for healing but more related to corrective actions directed at the misprogramming. This is one reason why the effects of an accident can linger for years if not treated properly. Physical therapy works to calm these hyperactive muscles and rebuild the postural support mechanism for long term relief.

The second large category of neck pain is related to ongoing postural strain. Behind this situation are imbalances between muscles in the front of the chest and neck and those in the back. Life is lived in front of us and so many of the muscles in the chest and neck become over dominant and the muscles in the upper back and neck often become longer and weaker. This commonly leads to the typical rounded upper back in many patients which is so characteristic as people age. Tied closely to this posture is a lifestyle or work style of sitting, computers, and video screens which pulls the head forward as an unaware effect. This pain pattern often has other influences as well with poor upper chest breathing habits which add further strain to the muscles in the front of the neck and chest and even stress from life. This situation, in all its different presentations, needs a comprehensive approach to change the muscle imbalances related to posture and respiration. Inclusive with this treatment is an education process for the patient related to posture, work stations, lifestyle habits and relaxation to break the postural imbalance cycle. Physical therapy is the profession that provides this comprehensive approach.

  • Neck pain
  • Radiculopathy
  • Disk herniation
  • Stenosis
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Facet syndrome
  • Myofascial pain
  • Postural imbalance/weakness
  • Rib dysfunctions
  • Arm numbness/tingling
  • Headaches