Sara Shupe, MSPT, Dip. MDT is a physical therapist specialist and founder of J.O.Y. Physical Therapy Inc, a mobile and tele-health physical therapy provider servicing the Twin Cities Metro Area, greater Minnesota, and Wisconsin. Sara has presented early access models of mechanical diagnosis and therapy (MDT) in the treatment of low back pain to the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) of MN, National Association of Spine Society (NASS) in San Diego and Utah, and The international MDT Conference in Miami, FL. Sara lives in Eagan, MN with her 14 year-old son and Dachshund Mix Puppy.
Often after something as traumatic as a neck injury, whether it be from a fall, injury or motor vehicle accident, fear sets in. Fear of driving. Fear of walking on ice (which I would argue is a valid fear, especially here in the great state of Minnesota). Fear of moving.
Am I going to make this worse?
If the injury is new, restricted movements within the first few days, stabilizing with a soft collar for a day or two, and following the P.R.I.C.E. protocol of controlling the inflammatory process are appropriate measures. Once the constant ache becomes intermittent and a "tight" feeling initiates, movement becomes paramount to the success of your recovery.
But fear is a powerful enemy and there is LOTS of misinformation in the medical community about when to move, what direction and how much. Many beliefs exist about "damage" to the vertebral arteries in your neck with extension. A recent 2019 movement study from J of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics tested this and found:
"Repeated retraction with extension in a sitting position and end-range retraction with extension in supine position were significantly associated with an increase in vertebral artery volume flow... Head and neck movements & positions may affect blood flow to the brain.... perhaps, not always in the way we might expect?"
Translation: This is a good movement.
If your neck injury was associated with concussion-type symptoms of memory and attention deficits that have long outlasted the normal healing time-frames of 6-8 months, another study from our friends at Harvard Health suggests this is further reason to exercise:
"Exercise helps memory and thinking through both direct and indirect means. The benefits of exercise come directly from its ability to reduce insulin resistance, reduce inflammation, and stimulate the release of growth factors—chemicals in the brain that affect the health of brain cells, the growth of new blood vessels in the brain, and even the abundance and survival of new brain cells."
So, exercise is good for my neck. Which one(s)?
I am so glad you asked!! There is Good News, as usual!
Practitioners, such as myself, who are highly trained (Certified or Diplomat) in Mechanical Diagnosis and Therapy (MDT) can determine your movement and position preference for exercise with a detailed examination. So, don't wait! Call today! J.O.Y. Physical Therapy Inc provides mobile and telehealth MDT! www.joy-pt.com
Not a resident of MN or WI? Find a MDT Practitioner near you! https://mckenzieinstituteusa.org/disclaimerTherapist.cfm