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5 Physiotherapy Exercises for Neck Pain

Posted Jan 15th, 2022

There are many reasons why someone may be feeling some pain or discomfort in their neck. This can include poor posture or other underlying health conditions. Here, our Stittsville physiotherapists explain some of the exercises and treatments that we commonly use to help neck pain. 

Neck pain can range from mild discomfort to debilitating pain. It is quite common and may last for days, weeks or even longer! At Motion Works Physiotherapy & Sports Injury Centre, our team of physiotherapists are able to help identify the cause of your neck's discomfort and prescribe them a range of activities to help ensure that the pain doesn't arise again in the future. 

What Are The Causes of Neck Pain?

Neck pain may be caused by a wide range of injuries or other health conditions. Some of these causes of neck pain may include:

  • Long-term computer use.
  • Injuring your neck in an accident (such as whiplash from a minor car collision).
  • Strain to your neck and shoulders from lifting heavy objects.
  • You have just undergone a surgery on your neck and have been left with some pain and stiffness as you recover.
  • Poor sleep or commonly sleeping in an uncomfortable position. 

Neck pain can also be caused by more serious injuries or underlying medical issues, like spinal fractures or tumors located in the neck area. 

Exercises to Treat Neck Pain

When practicing physiotherapy for neck pain relief, our Motion Works Physiotherapy & Sports Injury Centre physical therapists will often prescribe exercises, also call active physiotherapy) to our clients in order to help alleviate discomfort, strengthen their injured muscles and tissue, and to help ensure that injury won't occur again in the future.

The following are 5 exercises that we might prescribe to our clients to help treat their neck pain:

Neck and Shoulder Rolls

This exercise may serve as a warm-up for your other exercises. When performing shoulder rolls, relax your arms and shoulder and "roll" them 10 or so times to help loosen your muscles. 

Forehead or neck rolls, tuck your chin into your chest and start rolling your head in a wide circle. Make sure that you aren't causing yourself any pain while you do so. 

Seated Neck Stretch

This exercise is done seated, as the name suggests. Leaving one arm extended down, ensure you are seated with good posture and then gently use your other arm to pull your head towards the opposite side of your extended arm.

You can further modify this exercise with A) a chin nod before and through the stretch; B) chin nod with slight forward tilt (to stretch rear neck muscles); or C) chin nod, with slight head tilt back, to bias the front/side neck muscles for the stretch. Ask your physiotherapist which is best suited to you!

Prone Rows or Band Doorknob Rows

This exercise strengthens the muscles around your neck and spine in order to better support them. Lay facedown on a bench with your arms dangling on either side of the bench. Pull upward with your elbows and pull your shoulder blades together, bringing your fists up as if you were rowing a boat.   

If you have a resistance band at home, you can also tie it to a safely closed door's doorknob. Stand far enough away from the anchor so there is no slack in the band and keep your chin tucked gently to your throat with your shoulders back and belly drawn in. Then, begin with arms outreached in front of you towards to door and pull your elbow back, pinching your shoulder blades together behind you, moving your hand by your sides. 

Foam Roller 'T' and 'Y' Exercises

Another exercise designed to improve posture, and strengthen the muscles surrounding your upper back and neck, is to lie lengthwise on a 36" (3') foam roller, from tailbone to head, supported.  Start with arms straight up, above chest, then lower down toward the floor (opening to make a 'T' shape), return with control and repeat 10 times.  Ensure shoulders do not shrug up to ears and chest remains open.   

This can be repeated, but with your thumbs leading into a "Y" shape (halfway between a "T" position and directly over your head).

Foam rollers allow you to challenge your stability, while also encouraging good chest opening for spinal stability and stretching. 

Aquatic Exercises

This is a relatively large umbrella of exercises that all use the buoyant properties of water to help slowly and safely engage injured muscles in order to strengthen them. This will help to take pressure off of your spine and neck.

Aquatic exercises can be particularly helpful when neck pain is accompanied by back and shoulder pain as well.

You should always wait on your physiotherapist's prescriptions of a specific exercise before you engage injured or pained muscles while experiencing neck pain. Attempting exercises without consulting your physical therapists may result in even more injury or pain.

When Should I Avoid Physiotherapy For Neck Pain?

While in many, many cases, physical therapy can help you recover from pain in your neck, there are certain instances where it should be avoided. This is particularly the case when you are suffering from a severe health issue that may be causing you pain like a fractured spine or a tumor around your neck. Not only will physiotherapy not be able to help you recover, it may even make the issue worse.

Likewise, some people's bodies aren't up to the demands of physiotherapy and would not tolerate it, until their acute inflammation and pain are reduced, and the body ready for progressive care.

In all of these cases, speak with your physician about ways of alleviating your neck pain, or addressing its root cause, in other ways.

Are your experiencing pain and discomfort in your neck?

Our team of specially trained physiotherapists are here to help you recover.

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