Anyone who has had the misfortune of sustaining an injury to the neck, or underwent a medical procedure involving the neck, can testify to how difficult it is to cope with neck and shoulder pain. While there is no such thing as a pleasant injury, persisting pain in the neck and shoulders interferes with almost every motion and sedentary position the body is capable of making, making it near impossible to sleep, get comfortable, or even concentrate. Neck and shoulder pain often occur at the same time because of how closely connected many of the muscles and nerves are, and as such, they are often treated at the same time with many different techniques that isolate those connected tissues. In this article, we will go over three of the most effective treatments for shoulder and neck pain relief, and how physical therapy can help with the process of recovery.
In many instances of neck and shoulder pain, the problem usually starts in the neck. Also known as the cervical spine, the neck is assigned the primary task of supporting the weight of your head. The vertebrae in your neck, in a healthy neck, possess a natural curve, or an arch, that helps your bones and muscles bear the weight of your head without causing any strain. Unfortunately, after we sustain an injury, or we lose that curve in our necks for a variety of reasons, the burden of bearing that weight will be passed on to your shoulders, causing all of the muscles involved to compensate for the others’ lack of performance, which results in a large chain reaction of pain, stiffness, and discomfort. For this type of pain, and several others, one preferred method of neck pain treatment is spinal mobilization. Spinal mobilization involves a chiropractor using one or more methods to cause movement in the joints of your cervical spine, which after repeated sessions, will cause the vertebrae to realign to their natural position and allow your neck to perform its original basic function. The most common methods of performing spinal mobilization are:
1. Activator Method: The Activator is a hand-held, spring-loaded, manual tool that provides a low-force impulse to help adjust the spine or extremity joints.
2. Cox Flexion-distraction: A gentle adjustment designed to adjust vertebrae by applying a gentle stretch to the lower spine, usually in a series of repetitive slow movements similar to a rocking motion.
3. Release Work: Applying gentle pressure using the fingertips, the chiropractor separates the misaligned vertebrae with the goal of restoring them back to their natural positions.
Instrument-assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM)
Something that many people may not be aware of is that neck pain, or shoulder pain can persist after an injury has healed due to the remaining scar tissue and fascial restrictions in the soft tissue. That is why IASTM is designed to help your therapist or physician to locate these areas of pain and stiffness, and use a device (often an ergonomic stainless steel contraption) to apply pressure and create various levels of mobility in the soft tissue. These devices apply a controlled amount of microtrauma to the affected areas, which initiates the reabsorption of inappropriate fibrosis, or excessive scar tissue, and facilitates a series of healing activities in response. Adhesions within the soft tissue, which may have developed as a result of surgery, injury, immobilization, or strain, are broken down by this application of microtrauma allowing full functional restoration to occur. Think of it as a rough, deep massage with a metal device that is being used to work out the kinks and stretch out that stiff tissue in order to allow your body to heal properly. Our bodies do a fairly decent job at healing naturally, sometimes, but most of the time our bodies will take the path of least resistance during the healing process, and require specially trained medical professionals to come in and offer some assistance.
Now that we know a little bit more about neck and shoulder pain being caused by bones, muscles, nerves, and soft tissue, now we will discuss another possible culprit for your pain: decreased blood circulation. Cupping therapy has been around for a very long time, with early records of it being used as a medical practice as early as 1550 B.C. There is a significant amount of myth, pseudoscience, and superstition surrounding the practice of cupping therapy, but studies as recent as 2018 have supplied reliable evidence to Cupping is a successful method of improving circulation, relieving pain, and promoting healing. The process involves placing a number of special cups, sometimes heated, over an affected area to create a suction effect. The general idea is that this suction will cause the skin to elevate, and blood flow will increase to the isolated areas where the cups were placed, which is essential to the body’s healing process. While the jury is still out on the concrete evidence behind the success and effectiveness of cupping therapy, much of the supporting evidence has led professionals to believe that cupping therapy can promote healing by:
1. altering pain signal processing
2. using counter-irritation, or pain to reduce pain
3. stimulating increased blood circulation through the release of nitric oxide
4. stimulating the immune system with artificial local inflammation
Book An Appointment With Theradynamics Today!
Neck pain relief can have a tremendous impact on the success of a person’s recovery plan. Persistent neck pain, or shoulder pain, can heighten a person’s anxiety, stress levels, and interfere with their ability to get a restful night of sleep. It can also slow down the body’s natural healing process. Theradynamics is a physical therapy and rehabilitation clinic that specializes in various forms of physical therapy including neck pain treatment. With multiple convenient locations between New York City and New Jersey, our team of licensed professionals are standing by ready to help you get started down your path to recovery. For more information, or to schedule a tour of one of our clinics, please visit our website today.