What Can I Expect from Neck Physiotherapy?

C.B. Fox

Patients who need neck physiotherapy should discuss this type of therapy with a medical professional before starting physiotherapy. The specific stretches and movements to use and the length of time to spend on each of these movements will differ between patients depending on the reason that neck physiotherapy is being used. Healthy patients can also use neck physiotherapy to keep the neck flexible and to improve mobility. The joints and muscles in the neck are quite delicate, so patients should always consult with a doctor or physical therapist before beginning treatment.

For recent injuries, doctors may want to perform x-rays to get a closer look at the bones and joints in the neck.
For recent injuries, doctors may want to perform x-rays to get a closer look at the bones and joints in the neck.

A consultation with a healthcare professional will help the doctor or therapist determine which exercises will benefit the patient and whether there are any motions that could damage the muscles or joints in the patient's neck. If a patient has suffered an injury recently, doctors may also want to take a thorough look at the bones, joints, and muscles in the neck through the use of an x-ray or magnetic resonance image (MRI). A neck physiotherapy consultation will also probably include a physical examination of the neck and an assessment of the patient's current range of motion. This is the first thing patients should expect when starting neck physiotherapy.

Once a healthcare professional determines that neck physiotherapy is appropriate, the next thing a patient can expect is to work with a professional on the motions and stretches that will benefit the neck. A physical therapist or doctor will teach the patient how to stretch and exercise the neck properly so that the patient doesn't over-extend and damage the joints. In some cases, a single training session will be sufficient, though patients may return for a few sessions to make sure they are following the neck physiotherapy procedures correctly.

The various exercises used in neck physiotherapy include stretches and simple movements. The neck can be stretched forward and back, side to side, and rolled around in a slow, controlled circle. Other motions commonly used in neck physiotherapy including shaking the head side to side, nodding it up and down, and alternating between placing the right ear near the right shoulder and the left ear near the left shoulder. Patients can sometimes use their hands to help hold the neck in place while it is being stretched. In most cases, stretches are held for between 30 seconds and a minute each time they are done, while movements may be continued for a few minutes at a time.

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