Neck Pain: 5 Things to Know

In Headache, Neck Pain, Physical Therapy by Seth Peterson, Physical Therapist Oro Valley

Neck Pain: 5 Things to Know

Neck pain is one of the most common things we see in physical therapy, and especially here at The Motive.  Neck pain doesn’t have to be scary or frightening or effect so many aspects of your life, but it often does.  Because we believe knowledge is power, we’ve created a helpful infographic available to view and discuss.  There are many things to know about neck pain, but here are 5 that might give you a head start toward understanding it. 

  1. Neck pain is common.  1 in 6 people have neck pain worldwide. 

It’s most common in those about 40-65, and is slightly more common in women than in men.  We’re not sure quite why these trends exist, but they do.  When you’re neck hurts, know you’re not alone, and it isn’t necessarily going to lead to a bad outcome.

2. With neck pain, mood really matters

No matter which musculoskeletal injury you may have, your mood can really impact your outcome.  Several studies have shown that depression can increase the chances of developing neck pain.  In chronic whiplash, the belief you won’t recover actually lowers your chance of recovery.  On the flip side, actively engaging in your recovery and trying to stay active and positive about it increases your chances of a speedy recovery. 

3.  “Reframing” pain may help

In several studies, patients who are taught about pain or given a way to “reframe” their pain seems to help their outcome.  One way to reframe pain is to understand it as an alarm system.  Days after a neck injury, there is a good chance the alarm system is working well.  A consistent pattern, like your neck pain always getting triggered looking to the right or it’s always more sore in the morning, might be the alarm system telling you something.  If you notice that your pain seems to be disproportionate to what you’ve done, you might be dealing with an extra sensitive alarm system.  If that’s the case, it can be helpful to understand that you’re safe and the alarm system can be ignored.  We recommend having a physical therapist examine you if you think this might be the case.  

4.  Thoracic manipulation may help

Manipulating the upper back in patients with neck pain seems to be helpful.  Scientists aren’t exactly sure of the mechanisms here, but it can be powerful.  A 2013 study showed a 75% reduction in symptoms with patients that got manipulation versus only a 19% reduction in those that did not.(Masaraccio et al, 2013) At The Motive, we have fellowship-trained manual therapists that can evaluate you and determine if this might be a beneficial treatment. 

5. Neck and upper back strengthening may help

Surprised to hear this one coming from a physical therapist?  I would think not.  But the evidence is clear.  Adding strengthening exercises to the neck and upper back has been shown in multiple studies to be beneficial.(Peterson et al, 2015)(Kay et al, 2012)