Studies Show Specific Exercise and Manual Therapy Help With Neck Pain and Headache
Sunday, September 25, 2016 at 12:01PM

Neck pain and headaches affect a significant number of people. Physical therapy can help these issues in a variety of ways.  Two recent studies have found that manual therapy techniques and specific exercises performed by PT's can help chronic neck pain and headaches.   

 The first study by Espi-Lopez et al looked at the use of specific manual techniques applied to the suboccipital area (just below your hairline on the back of your neck) for treatment of headaches.  They were specifically used on people who had chronic tenstion-type headaches.  This type of headache is characterized by a pressure-type pain felt on both sides of the head starting at the base of the skull and may also be felt in the temples or forehead. 

They treated headache sufferers with hands-on techniques (individually or in combination) designed to decrease the muscle spasm or to increase movement in the joints of the neck .  They then asked questions to see if the treatment provided improved the patient's quality of life.  This included areas such as performing physical activity, work, social functions, and general health, energy, and pain interference with activities. Patients were only seen for 4 weeks but they still experienced a significant improvement in quality of life after treatment with both treatments separately and in combination.  

 Two recent studies have found that manual therapy techniques and specific exercises performed by PT's can help chronic neck pain and headaches.  

The second study by Izquierdo et al compared two types of exercises used by physical therapists  for treating neck pain and headaches. Often, people with neck pain have impaired muscle activation.  This means that the body gets confused about what muscles to contract when for daily movement.  This muscle confusion can lead to continued pain for a long period of time after an injury.  

The first exercise used addresses the coordination of the deep muscles of the neck.  The second type of exercise addressed the coordination of neck muscle activity with eye and head movements.  This type of exercise improves proprioception or the awareness of one's own body position.   The researchers found that both types of exercise improved pain and function in people with chronic neck pain. Subjects had better neck muscle endurance, proprioception, and decreased pain.  

These findings are good news for people with chronic neck pain or headaches.  Your physical therapist can help you recover faster using the appropriate treatments and home exercise program.


The material on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose of suggest treatment for individuals.  Consult your health care provider regarding your specific needs.

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