Physical Therapy for Neck Pain in Edmonton

Neck pain is an increasingly common problem, accounting for 10% of all musculoskeletal pain and disability worldwide. A 2018 study in Canada showed that 12.5% of the population experience low-back and neck/shoulder problems, while 15% reported encountering such issues during the previous year. If you are in Edmonton, AB and dealing with neck pain, then you are in the right place. So, let’s talk about the causes of neck pain, how to manage it, and what you can do to speed up your recovery process to perform at your best every day.

Anatomy of the Neck

The neck (or C-spine) consists of seven bones – called cervical vertebrae. A healthy neck generally makes a C-shape, formed by the vertebral bodies and spinous processes and connected by strong ligaments. Your neck also has muscles and their associated tendons that support and move your head and cervical spine. In addition to these supportive structures, there are various nerves, blood vessels, and lymphatic vessels in the neck. When all of these components are functioning well together we are able to move and function at our best and without pain.  

Why do I have Neck Pain?

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’ve suffered from or are suffering neck pain. You may not know why, how it happened, or even when it started, but if you’re like most people you probably just “woke up with a really stiff neck!”  Neck pain is a very common problem and can occur as a result of an injury or overuse strain or can come on if you have poor posture during your day or when sleeping. It may also be caused by carrying a heavy bag or purse, wearing heavy necklaces or chains, high stress levels or even because you grind your teeth frequently.

Some medical conditions may also cause neck pain include arthritis and fibromyalgia. Rarely neck pain may also be caused by an infection. If you’re having trouble with your neck, it’s essential to see a doctor immediately so they can diagnose the cause and recommend treatment options.

Signs and Symptoms of Neck Pain

  • Pain in the area of the neck usually accompanied by muscle tightness or spasm
  • Pain that might get worse holding your head in one place for long periods (driving, doing computer work)
  • Reductions in you range of motion for your head and neck
  • Headache

If you are experiencing neck pain and you also have: a very bad headache (worse than normal), fever, swelling in the neck or face, trouble breathing or swallowing, pain that spreads down your arms or legs or if your neck pain is accompanied by numbness, weakness, paralysis or intense tingling, see your medical doctor or go to the emergency room immediately.  You should also see your doctor if your pain persists for several days without stopping or is very severe.

Treatment for Neck Pain

Treatment for neck pain depends on the cause and severity of your pain. If you’re experiencing neck pain because of muscle tightness or strain (secondary to poor posture or overuse), consider seeking treatment from a physiotherapist or chiropractor. They will be able to provide massage, heat and cold therapy, exercise programs, and other treatments that can help improve your overall health. Clinics such as Unpain Clinic can also help you relieve your neck pain using the latest shockwave therapy methods & equipment. 

Surgery may be necessary if you have chronic or severe pain in one specific area of your neck due to nerve damage. This is generally only recommended if conservative treatments don’t work for you and all other treatment options fail. As with any surgery, there are risks including infection, but in some cases, it may be necessary for an improved quality of life.

Physiotherapy treatment for neck pain can include neck exercises, manual therapy, heat therapy and the use of other treatment modalities as needed. It is usually effective and has a reasonable success rate while being relatively safe with few side effects.

Shockwave Therapy for Neck Pain

Shockwave therapy is performed using a device that sends shockwaves (sound pulses) through your muscles and tissues to help relieve pain and help the tissues to heal.
Your body naturally produces shockwaves whenever you exercise, but this is at a much lower level than what is performed with clinical therapy. Unpain Clinic has healthcare providers like physiotherapists and chiropractors trained to use shockwave therapy to help treat your painful neck.

Practical Exercises to Relieve Neck Pain

Here are some common exercises for general neck pain that we recommend.  As we sell the PostureMedic device, we have used that program for clients who have purchased it.  For those who have not, a length of Theratubing or Theraband will work just fine.

*Those experiencing pain due to neck injury will usually require a highly specific treatment plan with exercises unique to their injury.  Seek medical attention prior to using this program if your pain is due to an injury.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Where should I go if I have neck pain?

That depends.
If you have neck pain because of an injury or motor vehicle accident or if you have any alarming symptoms (listed below) with your neck pain, you should see your medical doctor immediately or go to the emergency room.

  • a very bad headache (worse than normal)
  • fever
  • swelling in the neck or face
  • trouble breathing or swallowing
  • pain that spreads down your arms or legs
  • neck pain that is accompanied by numbness, weakness, paralysis or intense tingling
  • pain that is very severe and intolerable

    If your symptoms are milder and don’t include anything listed above, you can see a chiropractor, physiotherapist, acupuncturist or other trusted healthcare provider for help.

How long should I wait before seeing a doctor about neck pain?

  • If you have any of the alarming symptoms above or if your neck pain is due to an injury, don’t wait, go see your doctor right away. If your pain is less severe, you can generally wait a few days to see a healthcare provider and try some pain relief strategies at home such as gentle stretching or exercise, self-massage, application of hot or cold packs or over the counter pain relief medications (speak with your pharmacist to know which is best and safest for you).

How can shockwave help with neck pain?

  • A 2022 review by Wu et al., concluded that shockwave therapy can effectively relieve myofascial pain syndrome and help patients avoid adverse effects related to more invasive procedures like trigger point injection, dry needling and ultrasound. (Click the link below if you want to read the article).
  • Shockwave therapy is a relatively low risk procedure where high-energy mechanical waves transmit energy to the deep musculoskeletal tissues, with the goal being to provide tissue healing and pain relief. Since most cases of neck pain involve the muscles and soft tissues (like the fascia) either directly or indirectly, shockwave therapy may be an appropriate treatment for some patients with this condition. We encourage all patients to see their healthcare provider for a proper assessment and to determine the best treatment plan for their condition and needs. At the Unpain Clinic all patients are thoroughly assessed before any treatment is provided.

Is Shockwave therapy same as physiotherapy?

No, but sometimes physiotherapists use shockwave therapy to treat pain. Shockwave is what healthcare providers call a modality – a tool that they may use in their practice to help treat your pain. Not all healthcare providers use modalities and the ones that do, don’t always use the same modalities as other people in their field. If you are looking for a certain type of modality you can usually check clinic websites or call the clinic directly to find out if anyone provides the type of care you are looking for.

Is a Physiotherapist covered by Alberta Health Care?
Yes and no.  Confusing, right?  Alberta Health Care holds contracts with specific clinics – so you could have a perfectly good physiotherapist in a private practice who is not covered under Alberta Health Care since they do not negotiate contracts with them.  It usually comes down to cost.  If a clinic is offering a specialized service that is more expensive to offer, it is not typically covered by Alberta Health.  There are, however, many reputable clinics out there that provide excellent traditional care for clients under Alberta Health Care contracts. Unpain Clinic does NOT bill to Alberta Health Care at this time.

Do you need a referral to see a physiotherapist?

No. Physiotherapists are considered primary healthcare providers, along with medical doctors, chiropractors, naturopathic doctors and acupuncturists. These professionals do not require a referral from a medical doctor for you to see them. Be aware that your extended health benefits plan may require a doctor’s prescription in order for you to claim your visit. The best way for you to know if you need a referral is to call your benefits provider or check out their website.

Here at Unpain Clinic we always accept and appreciate referrals from medical doctors and other healthcare providers and are happy to collaborate and communicate with them to ensure you get the best care possible.  All chiropractors, physiotherapists and select massage therapists are trained in shockwave therapy to provide the most consistent treatment plan for our patients.

True Shockwave™ or Flashwave®? No need to wonder.

Our therapists will assess your situation and formulate a True Shockwave™, Radial Pressure Wave or Flashwave® treatment plan appropriate for achieving the most effective and lasting results.

Book a Tele-Free Assessment to see if we can help you!

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