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Physiotherapy Treatment for Neck Pain: What to Expect

Physiotherapy Treatment for Neck Pain: What to Expect?

Neck pain is a common issue that everyone faces at some point. A report published in the National Library of Medicine indicates that about 80% of people will experience neck pain in their lifetime, with 20% to 50% encountering it each year. It can be caused by various neck injuries affecting muscles, tendons, ligaments, discs, and nerves. This pain can radiate to nearby areas like the upper back, spine, shoulders, or jaw. Sometimes, it leads to headaches in the back of the head, eyes, or around the temples. These are known as cervicogenic or tension headaches. 

Physiotherapy is effective for treating both neck pain and headaches. It helps relieve pain and tackles the root cause to prevent future problems. Whether you’re suffering with whiplash resulting from a car accident or enduring “tech neck” due to extended screen usage, physical therapy provides a viable solution to restore mobility and relieve pain. In this blog, we look into what you should expect in a physiotherapy treatment if you struggle with neck pain.

Common Causes of Neck Pain

Neck pain often arises from problems in various parts of the neck. The most frequent sources of this pain are issues with the discs and facet joints. When these areas are compromised, the nearby muscles and ligaments become tense, leading to increased pain. Another typical cause of neck pain is strains in the muscles and soft tissues, particularly after sudden force during sports or staying in an uncomfortable position for too long.

What Are the Types of Physiotherapy Treatment for Neck Pain?

Physical therapy is a widely recognized approach for addressing acute and chronic neck pain. Generally, physical therapy programs designed for neck pain focus on introducing treatments to reduce pain and stiffness. This sets the stage for initiating a structured exercise routine intended to enhance the strength and mobility of the cervical spine. The physical therapist will devise a treatment plan which can include various exercises, adapting to each patient’s specific needs and conditions.

Here is what you can expect from the two types of physical therapy approaches: Passive and Active.

Passive Physical Therapy 

This form of therapy requires no effort from the patient. It includes various treatments like applying heat therapy, ice packs, manual therapy, massage therapy, ultrasound, and electrotherapy. Passive physical therapy mainly aims to alleviate pain and reduce swelling.

Active Physical Therapy

The patient actively participates in this approach by performing specific exercises and stretches. This helps strengthen and increase the pliability of the neck muscles. As a result, the muscles may become less painful and more capable of maintaining proper posture, decreasing the stress on the cervical spine.

Passive Physiotherapy Treatment for Neck Pain

Passive physical therapy modalities are typically administered in conjunction with active physical therapy. These non-motion-based therapies are designed to work on the body without requiring active movement. The types of passive modalities include:

Heat and Cold Therapy

  • Ice or cold packs alleviate pain, swelling, and inflammation.
  • Heat packs increase blood flow and reduce stiffness in the neck. It can also result in decreasing muscle spasm.
  • Alternating between heat and cold may be recommended based on specific symptoms.


  • Massaging the back of the head, neck, and upper shoulder/back can reduce neck pain and stiffness.
  • Massage helps loosen muscles, facilitating easier head movement before physical exercise.


  • Mild electrical currents delivered through wires attached topically to the painful area stimulate muscle reactions.
  • IFC (Interferential Current) and TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation) units send pulses to sensory nerves, disrupting pain signals and providing relief.


  • High-energy sound waves are directed deep into neck tissues using a handheld device.
  • This modality relieves pain and promotes muscle relaxation, typically by applying a cool gel as a conducting medium.

These passive physical therapy modalities are crucial in preparing the neck for more active therapeutic exercises. The choice of modality may vary based on individual symptoms and the patient’s specific needs.

Types of Active Physical Therapy for Neck Pain

The primary objective of neck pain treatment through physical therapy is to enhance the range of motion and strength of the cervical spine. Active exercises engage the neck and surrounding muscles, promoting strength and flexibility.

Which Physiotherapy for Neck Pain is Effective?

By integrating these core techniques, physiotherapy provides a comprehensive approach to effectively manage and treat neck pain, promoting long-term health and comfort of the cervical spine.

Manual Therapy

Manual therapy involves hands-on techniques to alleviate neck pain. It is a method where the therapist applies specific pressure to specific joints. This technique can reduce pain and improve mobility. Mobilization involves gentler, rhythmic movements applied to the neck joints, helping to restore movement and ease stiffness. Both methods aim to enhance joint function and relieve pain.

On Physiopedia’s website, they state 3 effects of Manual Therapy:

  • Physiological: A positive placebo response can be produced.
  • Biomechanical and Physical: Manual therapy facilitates tissue repair and modelling.
  • Psychological: Manual therapy can reduce pain which improves an individual’s psychological state. This pain reduction is achieved by stimulating the pain-gate mechanism, muscle inhibition, reduction of nociceptive activity, and reduced intraarticular or periarticular pressure.

Exercise Therapy

Exercise therapy is a crucial component in treating neck pain. It focuses on specific exercises tailored to strengthen and increase the flexibility of the neck muscles. Strengthening exercises help support the cervical spine, reducing its load and stress. Flexibility exercises aim to improve the range of motion, reducing stiffness and preventing muscle imbalances. These exercises are crucial for long-term neck pain management and can be easily integrated into daily routines.

Posture Correction

Poor posture is a common contributor to neck pain. Physiotherapy addresses this through posture correction techniques. Therapists educate patients on the importance of maintaining a neutral spine position, especially during activities like sitting, standing, or working at a computer. They may also use exercises to strengthen the muscles that support proper posture, along with practical tips for ergonomic adjustments in daily life. Correcting posture helps distribute the load evenly across the neck and back, preventing excessive stress on any single part and thereby reducing the risk of pain.


Physiotherapists are skilled in alleviating the common complaint of neck pain. Stiffness in the neck can stem from muscles, tendons, ligaments, discs, or nerves, potentially affecting the upper back, shoulders, and jaw and consequently impacting various aspects of your life. At Bridgwater Physiotherapy, our team of professionals are dedicated to helping you improve and rediscover the joy of life. 
Contact us today to initiate your journey toward recovery and a healthier, more comfortable life. Our team of therapists craft an individualized treatment of physiotherapy for neck pain and facilitate recovery from trauma or injury. Additionally, we are here to assist you in enhancing your mobility through exceptional care.