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Ask the PT – Neck Pain

Hello WSPT,

I have chronic neck pain and am wondering how physical therapy can help reduce or eliminate the pain associated with my condition. What should I expect from my first visit to a physical therapist and is there anything I can do now to ease my pain?


Thank you for your question. Chronic neck pain is most likely the result of a herniated disc or cervical disc disease. There are many people who experience acute neck pain in their life due to a sports or work injuries or from poor habits such as posture. The symptoms, however, can determine the source of chronic neck pain, and it is for this reason a physical therapist can make a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Chronic neck pain is most likely the symptom of a more serious condition. A doctor or physical therapist will be able to give you a proper evaluation or diagnosis, of course, but there are certain areas of pain that can indicate something more. Neck pain radiating down the arm and into the hands and fingers is commonly caused by a cervical herniated disc or a pinched nerve in the neck. Pain from cervical foraminal stenosis, a type of spinal stenosis, tends to flair up after certain activities or movements and can get better or worse over time. Cervical degenerative disc disease is a similar condition can fluctuate and “flair up” and can last for an extended period of time.

When you first visit a physical therapist with neck pain, he or she will review your medical health history and give you a thorough physical examination. The physical therapist will ask you about your pain and symptoms in order to come to a proper diagnosis. After you are evaluated, the physical therapist will give you a personalized treatment plan to help reduce or eliminate the pain. Physical therapy will help you manage your condition in hope that the pain will be less and less in between visits.

It is important to remember that neck pain is most likely a symptom of a much more serious condition and only a doctor or physical therapist can give you a proper evaluation and diagnosis. Any questions regarding medications or surgical procedures should be directed to a doctor or physical therapist as they can help you weigh your options for successful pain management.

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