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5 Physiotherapy Exercises for Neck Pain

Pain affecting the neck is one of the most common kinds of discomfort reported to us by our Nepean clients. There are a whole host of reasons someone may be feeling discomfort or pain in their neck, including poor posture, injuries or other underlying health issues. Here, our Nepean physical therapists explain some of the common exercises and treatments we use to alleviate neck pain.

Neck pain may range from mild discomfort to debilitating pain. It is also very common and can last hours, days, weeks or even longer than that! At Nepean Sports Medicine & Physiotherapy Centre, the team of physiotherapists are able to help both identify the cause of your neck's discomfort and prescribe a range of active physiotherapeutic treatments like exercises, to make sure the pain doesn't appear 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.
  • Poor sleep or commonly sleeping in an uncomfortable position. 
  • Strain to your neck and shoulders from lifting heavy objects.
  • Injuring your neck in an accident (such as whiplash from a minor car collision).
  • You have just undergone a surgery on your neck and have been left with some pain and stiffness as you recover.

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, the physical therapists at Nepean Sports Medicine & Physiotherapy Centre will often prescribe exercises (also called active physiotherapy) to our clients to help alleviate discomfort, strengthen injured muscles and other tissues, and help ensure injury will not occur again in the future.

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

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.   

Respectively, if you have a resistance band at home, you can tie it safely to a closed door's doorknob.  Stand away from the anchor (so that no slack in band), with chin tucked gently to throat, shoulders back, and belly drawn in.  Then start with arms outreached in front toward door, then pull elbows and arms back, pinching shoulder blades together behind you, hands ending by your sides/front belly.

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 (45 degrees between 'T' position and directly over your head).

The foam roller permits more stability challenge, while also allowing good chest opening for stretch and spinal stability.

Neck and Shoulder Rolls

This exercise can serve as a warm-up for other exercises. For shoulder rolls, relax your arms and shoulders and "roll" them 10 or more times to help loosen the muscles. For neck or head rolls, tuck your chin down to your chest and begin rolling your head in wide circles,  being mindful that you aren't causing yourself any pain when doing 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!

Aquatic Exercises

This relatively large umbrella of exercises all use the buoyant properties of water to help slowly and safely engage injured muscles to help strengthen them. This helps to take pressure off your neck and spine and can be particularly helpful for when neck pain is accompanied by shoulder or back pain as well.

You should always wait for a physiotherapist's prescription of specific exercises before engaging injured or pained muscles when experiencing neck pain. Attempting exercises without consulting your physical therapist may result in further 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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Welcome to the Nepean Sports Medicine & Physiotherapy Centre blog, where we provide lots of helpful tips, news, information and advice about physiotherapy and massage treatments, as well as general health and wellness, in Nepean and Ottawa.

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