Everything You Need To Know About Neck Pain (Cervicothoracic Dysfunction)

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Many people come into our physical therapy clinic in Forest Lake (and our 8 locations as well) with a prescription written for generalized neck pain. What many patients do not know is a majority of their symptoms are a result of increased cervicothoracic stiffness (dysfunction). The cervicothoracic junction or CTJ is the region where the last segment of the cervical spine (C7) attaches to the first segment of the thoracic spine (T1). These junctions are areas in the spine that are generally stiff and immobile secondary to poor posture, occupational stresses, and excessive or restricted thoracic or lumbar segmental dysfunctions.

Signs and symptoms that usually are noted in this area include:

  • Very tight adjacent neck, shoulder girdle, and rib musculature
  • Headaches
  • Numbness & tingling into the upper extremity, specifically the pinky and inner forearm
  • Difficulty looking over the shoulder or looking upward

What can be done for the problem?

Your first step is to contact a physical therapist and either discuss the problem via telephone and see if it makes sense to be seen, and if so, schedule an initial evaluation. The therapist will discuss your signs and symptoms and any other information that pertains to your problem. This step is important because an accurate and thorough subjective examination can rule out other red flag issues that may be underlying that can be unsuccessful for physical therapy to treat. After this step is over an appropriate physical examination should take place which will guide the therapist’s treatment. Once the problem is identified and the CTJ is deemed the primary aggravator many treatments can be performed.

This is some of the many that can be employed:

  • Soft tissue mobilization / massage to loosen and release tight musculature
  • Mobilizations / manipulations to increase stiff or stuck spinal or rib segments
  • Postural re-education where specific cuing is given to make sure proper alignment in the spine, shoulder girdle, and head are taught.
  • Stretching / flexibility exercises to the chest, neck, and back.
  • Also needed for specific patients is supportive or corrective therapeutic taping.

If you feel this information relates to your condition please contact an OSI physical therapist at the information provided. Try to find a therapist that has specific training in treating spinal conditions since all practitioners are not created equal. Some have undergone very specific postgraduate training that makes them best suited to treat these issues.

Feel free to reach out and make an appointment or schedule a free phone consultation to get help!

– Saul