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What is cervicalgia and how is it treated?

What is cervicalgia and how is it treated?
3 minutes, 49 seconds

Some forms of neck pain start in the neck and radiate to other parts of the body. For instance, the inflammation caused by a herniated disc can radiate from the neck to the shoulders, upper back and arms. A pinched nerve in your neck can spread all the way down to your lower back. That is not the case with cervicalgia. This condition stays relegated to the neck. Although that's good news for your back, it can still be an uncomfortable condition. In this article, we'll answer the question "what is cervicalgia?" and some other common questions about this condition.

What is cervicalgia?

Cervicalgia is the medical term for neck pain that meets these two criteria:

  1. Caused by sudden or recurring pressure on the neck.
  2. Does not spread to other parts of the body.

The latter point is what differentiates cervicalgia from other forms of neck pain ”- it does not radiate. Many types of neck pain put so much pressure on the skull that they cause cervicogenic headaches. Other types of neck pain ” like a pinched nerve ” can radiate all the way down the back and arms. Cervicalgia stays in one place.

What causes cervicalgia?

Your neck, also known as the cervical spine, is made up of many different bones and soft tissue that give it the ability to flex and move from side to side. While these bones and soft tissue are built to support your head, your head places them under constant pressure. Adding to that pressure can cause your neck muscles to overstretch or even tear, which is when you experience cervicalgia. There are many activities that can cause muscle strains in the neck. Here are a few examples:

  • Carrying a heavy bag over one shoulder.
  • Sleeping in an awkward position.
  • Maintaining poor posture during repetitive processes (at work, for example).
  • Car accidents.
  • Sports injuries.

It's important to note that cervicalgia can overlap with other conditions affecting the neck tissue. For instance, someone can experience cervicalgia as a symptom of whiplash, arthritis or a herniated disc. However, it is only considered cervicalgia if the pain stays relegated to the neck muscles.

What does cervicalgia feel like?

Cervicalgia symptoms can range in severity, although they usually include pain and stiffness. This pain may occur in the back or on the sides of your neck. In some cases, symptoms may be so severe that you find yourself unable to turn your neck from side to side without pain.

How is cervicalgia diagnosed?

If you're experiencing chronic pain in your neck, you may want to visit a doctor or physical therapist. They'll talk to you about your symptoms, examine your neck and determine the cause of your discomfort. They may also have questions about your medical history that can help to determine the cause of your neck pain and appropriate treatments.

How long does cervicalgia last?

Cervicalgia can last anywhere from a few days to several weeks. Your exact timeline will vary depending on the initial cause of your pain, the severity of your symptoms and your course of treatment. It's recommended to consult a medical professional if your neck pain lasts more than several weeks or if the pain becomes unbearable.

How do physical therapists treat cervicalgia?

Physical therapy has several potential benefits for cervicalgia, including reduced inflammation, pain relief, neck muscle strengthening and improved range of motion. Physical therapists achieve these benefits by applying cold therapy, manual therapy, therapeutic exercises and several other forms of treatment.

Can I treat cervicalgia on my own at home?

This is a common question, particularly from those who've heard that physical therapy is a waste of time: Can't I just ice my neck and do some stretches? Yes, you can apply ice and exercise at home, but a professional therapist will be able to provide more comprehensive and effective treatment. Not only will they treat your existing pain, but they may be able to help you prevent future pain. If you haven't suffered a traumatic injury and are unsure why your neck hurts, your physical therapist may be able to determine if it's caused by a problem in your posture. For instance, if you have a habit of slouching or leaning over your computer when you work, you're leaving your neck unsupported, which can lead to neck pain. Your physical therapist will identify and help you correct any bad habits that are irritating the muscles and joints in your neck.

Alliance PTP is ready to help you find top-notch PT for cervicalgia

At Alliance Physical Therapy Partners, we're proudly bringing together physical therapy practices across the country to help people get the high-quality PT they need. Want to see a physical therapist in person? We can put you in touch with an Alliance PTP partner that's close to you and that can help you address neck pain. Not keen on in-person PT sessions or not close to an Alliance PTP partner? No worries. We also offer effective and affordable virtual physical therapy through our Agile Virtual Physical Therapy platform. Contact our team today so we can help you find the most effective physical therapy services for your injury or condition."

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