Neck pain, commonly referred to as cervical arthritis, is a very common disorder with many different causes. These causes include poor posture, improper use of pillows, sedentary lifestyle, taking part in physical sports (wrestling, rugby, boxing etc.), a slipped disc, arthritis and traumatic events such as whiplash.
Neck pain is not always localised just to the neck, cervicobrachialgia (a compressed nerve root in the neck) can cause shooting pains down the shoulder, arm and hand.
Correct diagnosis is essential for planned in an appropriate rehabilitation programme.
In most cases, treatment is conservative, using manual therapies designed to relax the muscle groups governing the neck, whilst stretching exercises and physical exercise can help to reduce a patient’s pain.
Getting a holistic picture of a patient’s is important here – knowing factors such as how long they spend in front of a computer each week for example can be key in preventing the persistence of symptoms.
When imaging is indicated xrays may be used to evaluate the alignment of the spine. CT and MRI scans may be used to look for any compression of the spinal cord, or nerve root compression in the case of a slipped disc. In rare cases, it may be wise to get the opinion of a neurological consultant, to ensure there is no nerve damage.
Cervical pain can be localized or referred (in this case we speak of cervicobrachialgia) or non-specific, non-irradiated.
In the acute phase the patient usually comes to our attention after about 8/10 days from the episode of acute neck pain that forced him to go to the emergency room where he’s usually treated with drug therapy.
The first goal of the rehabilitation program is the control of pain and recovery of mobility through the use of physical therapies (TENS, laser, hyperthermia), manual therapies with relaxing massage and stress relieving the cervical spine area and trapezes and passive stretching, assisted and auto-assisted; everything is designed to restore flexion-extension, rotation and lateral flexion often reduced in terms of mobility.
After you have recovered the ROM the protocol consists in the recovery of the deficient muscles of the cervical spine area, shoulder joint and upper limb with the use of rubber bands, tubing, weights and core muscles; it is advisable to start an aerobic activity for a global metabolic recovery.
The therapeutic program ends with the resumption of the sport specific gesture on the field in order to achieve pre-trauma physical condition using postural and proprioceptive exercises on different unstable surfaces.