The first goal is to increase pain free range of motion. Light, pain free cervical range of motion exercises can be performed to increase your neck motion. These exercises are to be performed with the goal of increasing motion not causing pain. The phrase "no pain, no gain" does not apply with these exercises. We call them the "Yes Dear and No Dear" exercises.
Repeated movement blocks the joint pain signals from reaching the brain, which cause the muscles to relax. The key is to go slow and stop before pain to maximize results. Go slower than you think and stop before experiencing any pain.
1. Yes Dear. Start by looking straight ahead and slowly tip your chin to your chest. If you can only go 10 degrees before pain, that is ok. This is only a starting point. Next slowly tip your head backwards looking toward the ceiling. Repeat this 10 times. Think of it like nodding your head to say, "Yes Dear."
2. No Dear. For the second exercise look straight ahead, slowly look toward your left shoulder. Stop before it hurts. Then slowly look toward your right shoulder. Once again, stop before it hurts. Then look toward the left shoulder again. Repeat this process over and over again for 10 repetitions. We call this the "No Dear Exercise."
If the exercise are going well and if your range of motion is within 70% of normal then you can perform the "I Don't Know Valley Girl Style" exercises.
3. I Don't Know. Start by looking straight ahead. Slowly lower your left ear toward your left shoulder. Stop before it hurts. Then tip your right ear toward your right shoulder. Remember to slowly move in a pain free motion. While repeating this exercise 10 times you should be able to picture the movie Legally Blond or any movie making fun of the California Valley Girl going "I don't know." *Note - do not raise your shoulders. Only your head should be moving.
You will probably notice improved motion after a few repetitions. Those joints are beginning to loosen up. Moving joints block pain signals from being sent to the brain. The slow and controlled movements are rocking the injured joint and decreasing the pain signals to the brain. The brain is responding to the movement by decreasing the muscle spasms.
The exercises should be repeated often during the day, to keep those joints moving. If you sit or lay still for a prolonged period of time, those joints will tighten up again. Icing is often your friend. Ice helps block pain signals to the brain, decreases inflammation, and helps the muscles to relax. Ice for 15 minutes, and then take it off for 15 minutes. Repeat this as many times as you can. A big ice pack can be placed on your neck at breakfast, on the ride to work, or when sitting at the computer.
Neck exercises are eventually combined with neck stretches when stretching can be performed without pain.
If the pain continues to get worse, seek treatment sooner rather than later. Quickly getting into a chiropractic or physical therapy office for treatment will speed your recovery. Getting treatment within a few days of onset will decrease the amount of days and intensity of pain. Most times it only takes a 1-3 visits.
Establishing motion in joints is one of the most important factors in shortening the pain episode. Chiropractic adjustments work because they help improve joint motion. Every joint has pain sensors in it that go off when they haven't moved for a while. Ever sit at a movie theatre and have that urge to shift and straighten your legs? The reason you had that urge is because those joint sensors in your legs hadn't moved in a while and told the brain to move. If you stayed in that position without moving, the urge would increase and begin to get painful.
Adjustments work by opening up those joints to relieve the painful signals being sent to the brain. There are different ways of performing an adjustment, and most are very gentle. In the office we combine adjustments with exercises, stretches, traction, roller table, or other modalities. We are doing combinations of these treatments to increase joint motion and decrease the muscle guarding or spasms.
Moving joints send a signal to the brain to saying, "hey, I'm okay." The brain responds by sending signals to the muscles to say "relax, we do not need to protect the joint this much because it is okay." You've felt this principle when getting out of the bed in the morning. You might be initially sore and unable to walk very well because of back pain. But after a few steps everything loosens up. Walking establishes movement in the joints, sends a signal to the brain, and the brain sends a signal to the muscles to relax.
We compliment the movement by tricking the muscles into relaxing through several forms of electric therapy. Interferential therapy is a strong tingle that loosens the muscles and decreases inflammation. We also use stronger electric forms to cause muscle contractions. Alternating muscle contraction and relaxation causes muscle spasms to relax.
Getting movement into joints will greatly decrease your injury intensity, frequency, and duration of pain. Combining this with physical therapy modalities of heat, ice, electric, ultrasound, stretching, and cold laser provide faster relief from your neck pain.
The first step is to always avoid injuries. If your injured, try home therapies and treatments to quickly relieve the pain.