Be honest: how’s your neck feeling today? We’ll be surprised (and a little jealous) if you say it feels totally pain-free.
Nowadays, most of us experience at least a little bit of upper body stiffness. Whether from stress, falling asleep on the couch, or spending 8+ hours on the computer each day, one thing’s for sure: it’s quite literally a pain in the neck to deal with.
It’s easy to brush off aches and pains or mask your symptoms altogether. But a bag of frozen peas and muscle cream is only a temporary fix. Wouldn’t you rather figure out what’s causing it, address it, and live happily ever after?
At HealthOne, our Rehab team is highly experienced in treating patients (just like you!) who suffer from neck pain. We believe in working together and combining our skills to provide you with comprehensive care from different angles.
Learning about neck pain from one practitioner would certainly be helpful – but what if you learned about it from multiple different perspectives? Three knights in shining armour are definitely better than one! That’s why in this blog, we sat down with three of our Rehab all-stars: our Chiropractor, Dr. Michael Zimbaro, Resident Physiotherapist, Justin, and our Osteopath, Jessica Bonzon, to learn everything you need to know about neck pain.
What causes it? How do you get rid of it? When is it time to visit a Rehab practitioner? Keep reading to learn the answers to all your biggest questions.
Neck Pain Causes
First things first: what are the causes of neck pain? According to all three of our practitioners, the causes fall into two categories.
The first category is acute causes, which means neck pain that happens more suddenly. This is less common, but can still happen in a variety of situations. “Examples of this include whiplash, car accidents, or slips and falls,” explains Justin, our Resident Physiotherapist. “If you’ve suffered acute neck injuries in the past, it’s always a good idea to proactively re-assess your current function and mobility instead of waiting until your symptoms flare up before seeking help.”
“I see acute neck pain from people who have been in a motor vehicle accident and are dealing with a concussion or whiplash,” Jessica agrees. “But the other category of neck pain is the one I see most often, which is neck pain that develops slowly over time.”
With this type of neck pain, you won’t necessarily wake up one day with debilitating pain. Instead, those uncomfortable symptoms – like stiffness, tightness, and soreness – will gradually build up and get worse over time. You might even get used to feeling this way or convince yourself it’s ‘just the way life is’ these days.
But you shouldn’t feel alone if you deal with chronic neck pain – and you shouldn’t be afraid to seek help. Understanding why it happens is the first step toward improving your symptoms.
Neck Pain From Working at Home
“I would definitely say that poor posture is one of the biggest causes of neck pain these days,” says Dr. Zimbaro. “People are working from home more often with a poor desk setup and ergonomics, working on the couch, or whilst in bed... which can cause neck pain due to poor posture and being in these sedentary, static positions for prolonged periods.”
“With many professionals working from home over the last 2 years, I’ve found that poor work station design has become a common thread among patients reporting to therapy with symptoms of neck pain and/or immobility,” Justin agrees.
It should come as no surprise that Jessica, our Osteopath, has observed the same thing. “Computer desk work is definitely the #1 cause,” she says. “Patients are constantly on their phone, on their computer, and leaning forward all the time... this lack of mobility is definitely the leading cause of neck pain.”
Sound like you? You’re not alone. The majority of neck pain cases that our Rehab team has seen over the past couple of years fall into this category. Rather than a sudden injury, it’s related to your lifestyle and what you do at home. Another way chronic neck pain can develop is from an improper sleep setup.
Neck Pain From Sleeping
8 hours a night x 365 days a year = 2920 hours of precious, restorative sleep. Considering how much time we spend in bed, it’s surprising that many of us have a poor sleep system at home.
“People are often surprised to find out that comfort is not the only indicator when selecting the appropriate pillow and mattress,” Justin explains.
Just like a poor desk setup can cause neck pain to develop over time, having a poor sleep setup can do the exact same thing. It can be surprising to realize that the cause of your neck pain is right under the tip of your nose! Luckily, this makes it easy to address the root cause directly and put yourself on the path to feeling better. It all comes down to adjusting your lifestyle.
How to Relieve Neck Pain
Wait a minute – aren’t Rehab practitioners the ones with magic hands that’ll fix your neck pain? Since when are you the one responsible for fixing your symptoms?
Both components are equally important if you’re looking for comprehensive treatment. What happens outside of our Rehab office is equally as important as what happens inside of it.
“As a Chiropractor, I can admit that it’s not just what I do here that will fix your neck pain. It has to be a shared responsibility between us,” Dr. Zimbaro explains. “I can provide treatment and pain during our 30 minutes, but you’re spending the rest of your time outside of my office. That’s why it’s equally important that you also address what you’re doing at home, and with your lifestyle as a whole.”
He frequently asks his patients to take a photo of their desk setup and bring it in for an ergonomic assessment. This allows him to identify the areas that can be improved and make recommendations that’ll reduce the development of neck pain.
Justin takes a similar approach in his treatment. By understanding the patients’ life at home, he has the best possible chance of improving their pain and overall health. “Asking patients to think critically about specific details of their lifestyle and health practices can help promote more accountability and thoughtful reflection during their course of rehab,” he says.
Here are a few tips they often share to help you improve your work setup:
- Adjust your chair height so your feet are flat on the floor.
- Aim to have your elbows at 90 degrees so your wrists are properly supported.
- Your computer bezel (webcam) should be in line with your eyes. If you use a laptop, try getting a laptop stand or a larger computer monitor to achieve this.
- Consider using an external keyboard and mouse.
- If possible, use a desk chair with armrests and lumbar (back) support.
These concepts might feel foreign to you if you normally work from the kitchen table. Rest assured, a few small changes can make a world of noticeable difference!
Neck Pain Treatment
It goes without saying that addressing your lifestyle is only one piece of the puzzle. Visiting a Rehab practitioner for neck pain treatment is an important component as well. The great thing about having multiple practitioners on your team is that each one has different areas of expertise, modalities, and approaches to treatment. Many people benefit from visiting not only one team member but multiple!
Here’s a breakdown of how our Chiropractor, Physiotherapist, and Osteopath treat neck pain.
Osteopathic Treatment for Neck Pain
The first thing Jessica, our Osteopath, does is perform an assessment. “As an Osteopath and manual practitioner, I consider the body as a whole. I believe everything is connected – so if you come in for neck pain, I’ll also be looking at other areas like your upper back, spine, and your jaw.”
She’ll use her hands to assess these areas of your body and determine the best approach for treatment. This can include myofascial release, muscle release, decreasing tightness in the muscle, increasing mobility, and providing tips and tricks to improve your posture.
“The key to visibility with treatment is understanding the core of the problem,” she shares. “So, I’ll provide the tools to fix the core of the problem and recommendations for things the patient should adjust – like their ergonomics."
Physiotherapy for Neck Pain
As we mentioned, the first thing Justin does when he sees a patient with neck pain, prior to a physical examination, is seek to understand their lifestyle. Then, he’ll educate the patient on what they’re experiencing and discuss behaviour modifications they can make to address the root cause.
“Typically, treatment for neck pain will involve mobilizing stiff joints, releasing tight muscles, and optimizing your posture. That said, I’m equally concerned with how we can address your current behaviours at home/work, and what modifications can be made in order to achieve a long-term solution, rather than the perpetual treatment of symptoms.”
He adds that sometimes his patients are surprised that a lot of his treatment is spent discussing their lifestyle, rather than being hooked up to a machine to treat their symptoms. This unified blend of hands-on treatment, education, and exercise is truly what makes a noticeable difference.
Chiropractic Care for Neck Pain
Dr. Zimbaro has a similar approach – first and foremost, he performs an assessment. Once he has an understanding of why you’re experiencing neck pain, he’ll spend time educating you about the changes you can make to reduce it.
“I always implement a combination of passive and active care,” he explains. “Passive care is what I do here – so things like adjustments, using modalities, and soft tissue techniques to name a few. Active work is stretching and strengthening, so the things you’re doing the rest of the time after you leave my office.”
He shares that a lot of Chiropractors focus on just the passive work. They see a patient for a 10-minute appointment, perform an adjustment, and send them on their way. “If I just sat here and did passive stuff all day, we wouldn’t get the same results as we would if they also change things in their life. I really try to individualize my treatment as much as I can, factoring in the patient's specific values and goals.”
In-depth assessments, education, in-clinic treatments, and behaviour modifications are all important aspects of neck pain treatment for our three Rehab practitioners. The last (but certainly not least) component is stretching and strengthening exercises. That’s where you come in!
Neck Stretches for Neck Pain
Regardless of why you have neck pain or how long you’ve been experiencing it, there’s one thing our Rehab practitioners will always include in their treatment plan: exercise.
“At HealthOne, we use PhysiApp which is a great tool and very easy for patients to use,” Jessica shares. “It has easy-to-follow videos of each exercise, and we can create custom programs for each patient showing how many reps and sets they should be doing.”
You might find yourself stretching out your neck at home to try and alleviate the stiffness already. The exercises prescribed by our Rehab team will undoubtedly ease your symptoms while also strengthening your muscles!
“Physitrack is not only a great educational tool, but it’s a helpful method for improving accountability among patients when it comes to staying on top of their self-care outside of the clinic,” Justin says. “We’re very realistic – we know people don’t want to do exercises for hours each day, or remember a bunch of different things,” Michael adds. “The app makes it easy for them to remember and they can even communicate with us directly through it.”
Understanding your role and responsibility as a patient will only help your symptoms improve. 5-10 minutes a day might feel like something you dread, but for a reduction of neck pain symptoms, it’s certainly worth your time.
Neck Pain Treatment in Toronto
At the end of the day, struggling with neck pain is enough to put a damper on anyone’s day-to-day. Writing emails and meeting deadlines is a lot harder to focus on when your upper body’s nagging you.
At HealthOne, we believe that the best (and only) way to truly relieve your symptoms is with a unified team approach. Visiting a Rehab practitioner like a Chiropractor, Physiotherapist, or Osteopath can help – and doing your part outside of the clinic is equally as important, too.
Here are some final thoughts from each of our practitioners on how HealthOne can help resolve your neck pain.
“I always tell people not to wait for heavy symptoms to start. Go see someone, whether it’s a physio, chiro, or osteo as soon as possible. We all specialize in different things, and work together to provide the best possible treatment. It can also be helpful if you run out of insurance coverage so you know that other practitioners can continue your treatment and ultimately get you on the path to feeling better.” - Jessica Bonzon, Osteopath
“We all have our areas of expertise. If they’re coming to see me, they can usually use their chiro coverage and then continue their care with physio. When patients come in, I explain what I can offer, what Jessica and Justin can offer, what our other team members can offer... and I really hit home that if you see all of us together that’s a maximal effect and the best possible outcome. You can even get it all done in one day.” - Dr. Michael Zimbaro, Chiropractor
“Whenever creating a treatment plan to address neck pain, I’ll often educate patients on the additional services offered by our Rehab team, and how incorporating multiple disciplines/areas of expertise can greatly benefit them on their path to recover. ‘Teamwork makes the dream work’!” - Justin Achat, Resident Physiotherapist
We’d love the opportunity to help you identify the causes of your neck pain, address the root causes, and have you feeling better than ever!
Click here to book a consultation with a member of our Rehab team.
One Life. Live Inspired.