Common Conditions Related to Neck Pain

Man standing up straight against a mirror

What is a pinched nerve?

A pinched nerve is the entrapment of a peripheral nerve by surrounding structures like bone, disc, ligament, and/or tendon. The nerve becomes compressed by these tissues which causes burning, numbness, tingling, weakness, and/or reduced motion. This can be from chronic overuse or a recent joint or muscle injury. A pinched nerve can occur at the neck, back, or in different parts of the arms and legs. A common type of nerve entrapment that most people are familiar with is carpal tunnel syndrome, which is a pinched nerve in the hand or wrist leading to numbness and tingling in the fingers. How long does a pinched nerve last? This is variable for everyone, but seeking guidance from a CityPT physical therapist can speed up the recovery process.

What is degenerative disc disease (DDD) in the cervical spine (neck)?

DDD is a natural aging process where the discs between our vertebrae begin to lose height. In our necks we have six intervertebral discs composed of an outer layer of woven cartilage and an inner gel-like substance which creates cushioning between the bones. These discs go through a rehydration process as we sleep, but as we age the rehydration process becomes impaired. This affects movement between the joints and causes reduced nerve mobility. But, not all individuals with DDD have symptoms and it is common to see these disc changes with aging on imaging. Fortunately, a CityPT physical therapist can perform an individualized evaluation and aid you in finding the correct exercises to help improve your function.

What is spinal stenosis in the cervical spine (neck)?

Cervical spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the vertebra's canal where nerves, arteries, and veins pass through. Stenosis can occur in different openings of the spine and this can be caused by prior injury, inflammation, or changes to the spine due to aging. Stenosis can cause pain/numbness/tingling in the neck and/or down the arm(s). It is important to contact a doctor immediately if your symptoms are associated with incontinence, difficulty walking, frequent falling, or leg dysfunction. A CityPT physical therapist can help with conservative management and avoidance of surgery with exercises aimed at proper strength, mobility, and education targeted at preventing the progression of spinal stenosis and relieving symptoms.

What is a herniated disc in the cervical spine (neck)?

A herniated disc is an extrusion of disc material from its normal anatomical position between the bony structures of the spine. Our discs are composed of an outer layer of woven cartilage and an inner gel-like substance which creates cushioning between the bones. Disc herniations are frequently seen on MRIs of people with no symptoms. How do you heal a disc herniation naturally? Disc herniations can successfully be managed with physical therapy from CityPT, which inlcudes a tailored exercise routine.

What is poor posture?

Poor posture is very common in the age of technology where phones and computers are staples in our day to day life. Additionally, most activities we perform are in front of us like driving, cooking, eating, washing dishes, lifting a child, etc. Abnormal posture can also be caused by trauma, injury, and muscle or bone dysfunction. Luckily, a CityPT physical therapist can assess the causes of your postural impairment, address any ergonomic barriers, and help balance your musculoskeletal system to overcome your limitations.

What is a muscle spasm?

A muscle spasm is the binding of muscle fibers resulting in tension or a “knot” type feeling in the muscle. A muscle spasm can result from imbalance in our electrolytes, decreased circulation, poor body mechanics, injury, and overuse. These usually occur suddenly and resolve quickly, but when a muscle spasm goes untreated this can turn into a trigger point within the muscle. A trapezius muscle spasm is a common location for this condition and is a muscle spasm in the upper back and neck. A licensed physical therapist at CityPT can help determine the root cause of the muscle spasm, provide appropriate exercise, perform hands on techniques, and assist with prevention of future spasms.

What are trigger points in the neck?

Trigger points are palpable, localized, irritable areas within muscle fibers. When touched they feel like a taut band within our muscle tissues and cause reduced ability to contract and stretch muscles. Trigger points are known to not only produce pain where they are located but they can also cause pain in different areas of the body. CityPT physical therapists are well versed in common referral pain areas caused by trigger points and can educate you in ways to eliminate these taut tissue bands and allow you to return to your top performance.

What is vertigo?

Vertigo is a spinning sensation or false sense of movement. This can be caused by medication, inflammation in the vestibular (inner ear) nerve, head injury, and/or benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). Did you know there are three fluid-filled semicircular canals within our inner ear that help us sense where we are in space? Also within the inner ear there are crystals that are typically housed in a gel-like substance which can become displaced and move into one or more of these canals causing a false sense of spinning. BPPV is the most common cause of vertigo and many people are given medications to stifle their dizziness but not treat these dislodged crystals. Fortunately, a specialized physical therapist at CityPT can diagnose which canal(s) are involved and reposition these crystals to help you regain your balance and return to your normal daily life.

What is dizziness?

Dizziness is an altered sense of self in space, lightheadedness, and/or being off balance. These are very common symptoms following a whiplash injury. There are many causes of dizziness, but one cause can be from musculoskeletal impairments within your neck. A CityPT physical therapist can assist in improving your neck and eye coordination, cervical muscle awareness, balance, and the motor patterns in your neck to facilitate a return to your normal routine.