Tuesday, November 15, 2011

My Neck Hurts… So Why is My Physical Therapist Treating My Back?

Many people will have neck pain at one point in their life.  It is estimated that up to 50% of all Americans will suffer from neck pain each year.  It is only second to low back pain on the list of disabling musculoskeletal disorders.  Some neck pain is caused by injury such as falls or whiplash injuries but the majority of pain in the region is caused by gradual stresses, such as poor posture, abnormal lifting patterns or awkward sleeping positions.  It is common practice in physical therapy for mobilizations or manipulations to be used to decrease spine pain and restore normal movement patterns.  Many people that I talk to are uncomfortable having their necks manipulated or “popped.”  Luckily for those who are against mobilizations/manipulations of the neck a recent study in the Journal of Orthopedic and Sports Physical Therapy(JOSPT) shows that mobilizations of the upper back may ease or eliminate neck pain.

This study was actually a review of many past studies in the area.  This type of study is held in high regard because many different factors are considered and only high quality studies are compiled for results.  The researchers looked into studies where patients received upper back mobilizations/manipulations and were then compared to patients who received other forms of physical therapy.  The researchers found that mobilizations/manipulations of the upper back “as part of the treatment resulted in less pain, increased neck motion, and improved function.”1

Patients in my clinic who prefer not to have mobilizations/manipulations of the neck can receive these same treatments to the back in order to decrease their neck pain while increasing their function.  Mobilizations and/or manipulations to the upper back are very safe and may help you feel better faster.  Your Physical Therapist can help determine if you are a good candidate for this type of treatment.  This evidence only further validates the treatment choices already in place at Hayashida and Associates Physical Therapy where upper back mobilizations/manipulations have been used often to treat patients with neck pain.

 J Orthop Sports Phys Ther 2011;41(9):643. doi:10.2519/jospt.2011.0506

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