Neck Pain Relief and Physical Therapy

Did you know that physical therapy is a common method of treatment for chronic neck pain? Care for neck pain through a physical therapy program typically involves treatment first to reduce pain or neck stiffness, and then creating an exercise plan that enables strengthening and stretching the neck.

Physical Therapy Strategy for Your Neck Pain.

Physical therapy for neck pain typically includes the following goals:

  • Reduce pain and stiffness
  • Improve head and neck range of motion
  • Develop dynamic strengthening of the neck and its supporting musculature
  • Develop strategies to prevent pain from recurring

Even if pain cannot be completely eliminated, physical therapy may play an important role in improving neck posture and function for daily movements.

When is Physical Therapy Recommended?

Physical therapy for the neck might be recommended in a variety of cases, such as:

Unspecified chronic pain. When neck pain lingers or keeps recurring, the exact source or mechanism of pain can be difficult to identify. Even without a diagnosis, increasing the strength of the neck’s muscles may help them to better support the cervical spine and become more resistant to pain.

Recovering from injury. Some injuries, such as whiplash, can damage the neck’s soft tissues and joints, resulting in pain and/or stiffness that can last for weeks or much longer. A physical therapy program can reduce pain and help return the neck to normal functioning.

Recovering from surgery. Some surgeries performed on the neck can result in significant pain and stiffness in the weeks and months that follow. For example, an anterior cervical discectomy with fusion (ACDF) surgery involves the fusion of 2 or more vertebrae in the neck, which can alter how some neck and upper back muscles move. In such cases, physical therapy may help to work through stiffness, increase neck function, and reduce or prevent painful spasms as the muscles are reconditioned.
See 3 Weeks to 3 Months After ACDF Surgery

Physical therapy for the neck may be recommended in other cases as well, such as part of a larger treatment program for other diseases or chronic conditions.

Physical Therapy Treatment Methods

There are 2 common forms of physical therapy:

Passive physical therapy, which involves treatments being applied without effort from the patient. Numerous treatment methods are available, such as applying ice packs, heat therapy, massage therapy, ultrasound, electrotherapy, and others. The goal of passive physical therapy is to help reduce pain and swelling.


Active physical therapy, which involves the patient moving his or her own body through exercises and stretches. By improving strength and flexibility in the neck, these muscles may become less painful and better able to maintain good posture, which reduces stress on the cervical spine.

The initial phase of physical therapy for neck pain might involve more passive treatments, but more and more active treatments are likely to be incorporated as time goes on.

Physical Therapy for Neck Pain is Very Efficient!

Many studies have examined whether or not physical therapy can help reduce spine-related pain, such as in the lower back or neck. Current medical literature suggests moderate to strong evidence supporting the benefits of physical therapy’s role in reducing neck pain and improving range of motion. Some studies have found even more benefits from physical therapy when combined with other treatment methods, such as aerobic activity. Our physical therapists at Gateway will help you every step of the way!

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