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Can Physiotherapy Help your Neck Pain?

Can Physiotherapy Help your Neck Pain?

A few months ago I was treating a patient for knee pain.  During one of our treatment sessions they wondered, once their knee pain is better, if I would be able to treat their neck?  They were unsure if physiotherapists “worked on” necks.  I explained to them that as a physiotherapist I can help them with their neck pain. They were not aware that physiotherapist’s treated any parts of the spine.  Since then, I have had this happen a few more times, and I thought to myself, “Do some individuals not know that physiotherapy can treat neck and/or back pain?”


Since graduating from physiotherapy school, I have a taken many manual therapy courses which have allowed me to keep up to date with the latest manual therapy techniques and research.  I proceeded to look through some of the more recent research to demonstrate to our patients that physiotherapists are, in fact, very effective at assessing and treating issues with the spine, in this case focusing specifically on the neck.   I came across one article in particular that was published just this month in the Journal of Orthopaedic and Sports Physiotherapy titled “A comparison of the effects of stabilization exercises plus manual therapy to those of stabilization exercises alone in patients with non-specific mechanical neck pain: A randomized trial”(1).  I would like to go over some of the important take home messages from this article.


Understanding Manual Therapy

This article basically compared the effectiveness of neck strengthening exercises alone compared to neck strengthening exercises plus added manual therapy to reduce pain and change outcomes of treatment.  Now you may be wondering “what is manual therapy and what are neck stabilization exercises?”  Manual therapy is any ‘hands-on’ treatment provided by the physiotherapist [2].  This treatment may include:

  • moving joints at specific directions and speeds to regain movement (through joint mobilization or manipulation),
  • muscle stretching, passive joint mobility work of the affected body part,
  • or having the patient move against the therapist’s resistance to improve muscle activation and timing [2]. 


Neck stabilization exercises are exercises targeting specific muscles of the neck, helping to strengthen and improve endurance of the neck in different directions and positions.


Exercise & Manual Therapy

In the study highlighted above, the researchers found statistically significant findings that support how physiotherapy, specifically manual therapy, can improve outcomes of treatment in patients with neck pain [1].   More specifically, they found that patients in the exercise AND manual therapy group had superior results:

  • at reducing disability, pain intensity at night,
  • improving neck rotation movement, and
  • improving overall quality of life versus just stabilization exercises alone [1]. 


Now this is not to say that they didn’t find any effectiveness of the stabilization exercises alone.  Patients who just performed the stabilization exercises in this study were found to have improvement in a number of categories, however when manual therapy was added, the above improvements in patient outcomes were seen.


Overall, the purpose of this quick article review was to highlight the fact that as a physiotherapist, we can help you with your neck pain.  Here at Movement Solutions Physiotherapy all of our physiotherapists are manual therapists, and if in the future you unfortunately experience any neck pain, just remember that we can help!!


(1) Celenay ST, Akbayrak T, Kaya DO.  A Comparison of the Effects of Stabilization Exercises Plus Manual Therapy to Those of Stabilization Exercises Alone in Patients With Nonspecific Mechanical Neck Pain: A Randomized Clinical Trial.  JOSPT. 2016. 46 (2): 44-55.


(2) www.physio-pedia.com/manual_therapy


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170 Rockhaven Lane, Unit 107
Waterdown, ON L8B 1B5

Phone: 905.690.9090
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