Jeremy Przybylo, PT, DPT, DMT here at Prairie Spine is providing information on neck and shoulder pain. Read the article below to learn more about this pain that can be intense for many people, and see what advancements Prairie Spine has made to ensure an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan for you. If you have any questions or to schedule an appointment please contact us at 309-691-7774.
In physical therapy, we see many patients with neck and shoulder pain. This can be rather tricky to evaluate and treat. Often time’s pain from the neck may refer symptoms to the shoulder. On the other hand, pain from the shoulder can refer to the neck. Our job as therapists is to help the patient define the source of their symptoms and treat the condition accordingly. For the purpose of this article, we will discuss neck pain that leads to shoulder pain as a secondary issue.
When an individual suffers neck pain from a chronic condition or a traumatic accident, it can lead to muscular imbalances. The muscular imbalances can be a result of direct trauma to the muscle, or weakness that develops from postural strain. When a patient is suffering from neck pain, they may begin to adopt a guarded posture. This may include rounding of the shoulders, slouching of the low back, and a forward head position. In a guarded posture, certain muscle groups across the back and shoulders may become stretched out, while muscles across the chest may become tight. Muscles that are overstretched or too tight cannot function properly. If the muscles along with the shoulder blades and upper back become overstretched and weak, this tends to lead to poor shoulder mechanics. In turn, poor shoulder mechanics can lend to pain and irritation of the structures around the shoulder joint, namely the rotator cuff. This condition makes it difficult for patients to elevate the shoulder overhead.
So how do we address this condition in physical therapy? Our job is to help the patient define the muscular imbalances and figure out why they are occurring. In most cases, we need to treat the neck and shoulder simultaneously. Neck treatment usually involves hands-on manual therapy to reduce pain and increase the range of motion. This alone will help significantly. As the pain reduces, the guarded posture may reduce by itself, therefore restoring proper muscle balance. In most cases, however, the patient will likely require strengthening of the shoulder and upper back muscles to facilitate proper postural alignment and muscular balance. Once we’ve reduced the neck pain and restored balance to the musculature surrounding the shoulder, dynamic stability will be restored to the shoulder joint. Once the shoulder pain and irritation is gone, specific rotator cuff exercises may be added to further improve stability at the shoulder joint.
If you are dealing with neck and/or shoulder pain, contact us at Prairie Spine and Pain Institute. Our medical staff can perform a comprehensive orthopedic spine evaluation to help determine the cause of your symptoms. Likewise, our physical therapy department will perform a complete biomechanical examination of your neck and shoulder as described above. We are trained to provide advanced manual, hands-on therapy to help reduce pain, restore range of motion and improve strength.