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Physical Therapy As Effective as Surgery for Neck Pain

Researchers have found that physical therapy is as effective as surgery to treat neck pain, low back pain, shoulder pain and knee pain - see my prior posts.

Physical therapy does not involve the serious risks associated with surgery. In cases of neck pain, back pain, shoulder pain and knee pain, physical therapy avoids the unnecessary risks of surgery.

Your daily life will not be disrupted with physical therapy treatment. Treatment can provided around your work or family and commitments. After neck surgery you will generally be out of work and not able to maintain your normal routines and activities.

Physical therapy treatment is also a lot less expensive than surgery.

The average physical therapy treatment plan takes 10-12 visits costing approximately $1000 versus neck surgery that can can range in cost from $20,000 to $90,000. Your out-of-pocket cost due to deductibles or co-payments or coinsurance will be much lower for physical therapy.

Poor posture, arthritis and disc injuries are the most common causes of neck pain.

Poor posture causes muscle flexibility and strength imbalance that causes excess pressure on nerves resulting in neck pain and pain and tingling that often travels to a shoulder or down an arm. Physical therapy for neck pain from poor posture focuses on exercise to restore muscle balance and hands on treatment techniques to restore flexibility. We will also focus on your posture for example looking at your computer set-up or car seat.

Physical therapy treatment for neck pain caused by arthritis is similar to the treatment for posture related neck pain. The swelling from arthritis causes direct pressure on the nerves causing neck pain. The degenerative changes from arthritis also cause posture changes that puts additional pressure on the nerves contributing to the neck pain. In addition to the physical therapy to address posture manual therapy and traction are generally used to decompress the nerves to clear the pain.

Disc injuries causes neck and arm pain by direct pressure on the nerves. Physical therapy for this type of neck pain emphasizes decompression of the nerves using manual therapy, traction and exercises. Treatment will also include exercise and manual therapy to address associated muscle imbalance and flexibility issues.

Try PT First: Avoid Risk, Save Time, Save $

A good physical therapist will be able to determine the cause of your pain and which treatment to emphasize. If you have neck pain, your first stop should be physical therapy. You will avoid unnecessary risk, get better quicker, save time and save money.


Christopher DiPasquale, PhD, PT, OCS, SCS, CHT is a physical therapist at Performance Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine with offices in Hebron and Colchester, Connecticut. He is board certified by the American Board of Physical Therapy Specialties in Orthopedic Physical Therapy and Sports Physical Therapy and a Certified Hand Therapist by the Hand Therapy Certification Committee.


By Simon James from Darlington, UK (Day 80 - A Pain in the Neck Uploaded by CFCF) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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