Chances are you have suffered from neck pain at some point in your life. If you’re one of the unlucky, you’re one of the 30%-50% of the population that suffers from chronic neck pain.

Did You Know? A staggering 50%-85% of those suffering from chronic neck pain never experience complete resolution of their pain. The American Academy of Pain Medicine found that painkilling prescription medications, on average, helps only 58% of patients with chronic pain.

As with most chronic pains, over-utilization of prescription medication, and under-utilization of preferred therapeutic treatments like physical therapy are common. There are several treatment options physical therapists recommend, but in the end, they all come down to three basic things… stretching, strengthening, and straightening up.


Flexibility and stretching exercises can increase range of motion in affected cervical (neck) joints, and relieve some of the stiffness that accompanies pain. Neck stretching is best done every day, and some of these stretches can even be done several times a day. Based on your condition, treatments such as cold or heat application, massage, electrical stimulation and ultrasound therapies can be applied prior to strengthening techniques.


Neck strengthening exercises will help improve long term posture and range of motion, which can reduce or eliminate pain flare-ups. Neck strengthening exercises should be done at most once every other day to allow a day for muscle repair. Aerobic exercise can also aid in chronic neck pain by increasing blood flow to your soft tissue/muscles, allowing for decreased repair times and the release of natural endorphins. Before engaging in any neck strengthening exercises, consult with your physical therapist to determine the intensity and frequency of you exercise regimen.

Straightening Up

Poor posture is a leading and ongoing cause of chronic neck pain. There are many remedies to correct poor posture, but in the end, poor posture is simply a choice, and takes some self-discipline. How often do we have to remind ourselves when we start slumping to SIT UP? A physical therapist will measure your resting posture to determine if a postural correction can remedy your symptoms.

Did You Know? More than 100 million Americans suffer from chronic pain at a cost of around $600 billion a year in medical treatments and lost productivity, according to a report from the Institute of Medicine (IOM).

Signs and Symptoms

Here are some signs of chronic neck pain:

  • Inability to bend or rotate the neck
  • Difficulty looking up
  • Difficulty looking over the shoulder
  • Weak arm and shoulder muscles
  • Muscle spasms

Chronic neck pain can cause the following symptoms:

  • Pain in the neck, upper back, shoulders, arms, or hands
  • Numbness or tingling in the neck, shoulders, arms, or hands
  • Weakness in the arms
  • Increased pain when coughing, sneezing, reaching or sitting
  • Inability to stand straight or sit up straight
  • Stiffness when trying to move, or a feeling of being “stuck” in a position such as stooped forward, or with the head leaning to the side
  • Tight muscles
  • Headaches
  • Inability to remain in one position for a long period of time, such as sitting or standing, due to pain
  • Pain that is worse in the morning or at night
  • Difficulty sleeping due to pain

Your physical therapist will work closely with you to determine what factors are causing your chronic pain. Whether it’s poor posture caused by a cheap office chair, or whiplash trauma caused by an auto accident, always consult with a licensed physical therapist for your proper course of treatment.

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