How to Treat Neck Pain: A Multi-Disciplinary Approach

Aug 22, 2022

Last Updated: January 13, 2023

During the year, up to 23% of the population experiences neck pain. And it’s no wonder given the technology advancements that have us all looking at computers more than ever. In addition, the pandemic sent many workers home to work the kitchen or on the couch instead of their prior office desk. Sometimes neck pain is a new onset; other times it’s recurrent pain. There are many options available to us to treat pain ranging from meditation to medication; from stretches to surgery. So how do you choose?

If neck pain is the result of a traumatic accident along with hitting your head or possibly loss of consciousness, medical assessment is strongly advised. If neck pain is accompanied by a fever or headache that does not respond to your usual remedies, seek medical attention.

In other cases where neck pain can affect your function, sleep and rob you of daily activities – physical therapy would be appropriate. As movement specialists, physical therapists can assess what is making movement difficult and develop a plan of care to improve your function. It’s even common for pain to subside once mobility is restored.

But rehabilitation may require more than physical therapy. Occupational therapy could be a part of the plan of care. I’ve had the pleasure of working with occupational therapists who were able to focus on restoring movement from fingering buttons to get dressed to safely lifting to return to work.  Treatment could included exercises but also practicing the task itself with cues and modifications. Occupational therapists are also keenly aware of adaptive equipment to help with tasks when mobility is restricted, i.e.,  added mirrors to the car to assist in driving, a sock aid or extended handle shoe horn for putting on socks and shoes when you can’t bend.

It’s also possible that pain remains elevated and persistent. Because of the cumulate nature, this may affect a person’s ability to stay employed; it may mean a loss of activity that used to provide enjoyment. This can take its toll on non-physical aspects that affect our mood and emotions. Depression, frustration, anger – all affect the one with pain as well as family and close friends. Psychologists who are trained in the ways pain can affect a person are also perfectly positioned to help with these issues.

If neck pain does ultimately lead to surgery, there can be changes in the neck that affect voice or swallowing. Who better to help with these issues than our speech-language pathologists? Movements of the neck, changes in food texture and even voice exercises can make a difference in these functions that may get overlooked.

During Pain Awareness Month, remember that Brooks Rehabilitation is available with specialists that can assess and treat multiple factors that affect your ability to recover and restore. Whatever pain you’re experiencing, Brooks has a therapist for you.

Medical Reviewer

Anita L. Davis PT, DPT, FNCP, CNPT

Dr. Davis has focused her career on treating people with chronic pain conditions. She developed and managed the rehabilitation program for the Brooks Rehabilitation Comprehensive Pain Rehabilitation Program for 30 years. She is sought out by local physicians for her ability to treat a difficult population. Dr. Davis is also part of an interdisciplinary team at Nemours Jacksonville assessing and treating pediatrics with chronic pain. She has presented at local and national conferences on issues related to chronic pain evaluation and treatment, psychologically informed practice and telehealth applications. Her passion for treating patients with persistent pain has led to establishing a support group for individuals with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome which now serves over 300 members worldwide. She is also a consultant for the Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Association (RSDSA). Dr. Davis is an active member of the Florida Physical Therapy Association and serves as an officer in the Telehealth and Technology Special Interest Group. She has been a contributing author on articles related to musculoskeletal pain and is currently involved in ongoing research regarding telehealth implementation and qualitative assessments of those with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.
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