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Neck Pain?

If neck pain and stiffness is a factor in your life, you know how difficult it is to cope from day to day. Something as simple as turning your head or nodding can leave you in agony. Every day activities can feel impossible. If you have injured your neck, have whiplash, or are dealing with a chronic condition that makes your neck stiff and sore, the need for relief and effective treatment becomes essential. Introducing the pt Health Neck Pain Program…

The pt Health Neck Pain Program

  • Prescribes appropriate stretches, strengthening exercises, and movements that patients can do at home to relieve neck pain.
  • Does not involve medication, painkillers or surgery.
  • Actively involves patients in their own recovery.
  • Provides preventative strategies to deal with lifestyle, work, and other risk factors.
  • Is covered by most extended health plans.
  • Starts quickly with next day appointment availability.

You deserve the best treatment available to deal with neck pain. We know you want to ease the pain and get relief! That is why the pt Health clinical team has developed the Neck Pain Program. Our clinical approach involves a comprehensive individual analysis that takes your injury type, condition, risk factors, lifestyle, and work function into account so that you can get well and stay well – now!

Stiff Neck Symptoms

  • Pain and stiffness
  • Tenderness to the touch
  • Pain that goes to the shoulder or between the shoulder blades
  • Headaches

Stiff Neck Rehab

  • Addresses the full range of common neck pain causes including whiplash, acute injuries like sprains, strains or spasms, arthritis and/or other degenerative conditions leading to pinched nerves
  • Provides effective treatments designed to relieve pain and targeted to each patient’s specific needs

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Treatment Plan


While neck pain is not as common as lower back or lumbar pain, it is still a factor in millions of people’s lives. Neck pain can be the result of an acute injury or event or from a chronic condition. The pt Health Neck Pain Program is designed to address a diverse set of neck pain causes and treat towards optimal recovery for our patients.

Here are a few of the common causes of neck pain that the pt Health Neck Pain program can help to address.

Common Causes of Neck Strain

Muscular Strain – Acute

Muscular strain is one of the most common causes of neck pain. Strain can involve muscle spasm, muscle cramp, or a pulled or tight muscle. A strain happens when a muscle has been overworked, usually from fatigue or overuse. Any physical exertion – running, climbing, reaching, or turning/twisting are common causes of strain. In a muscle strain, tension or extreme stretching causes muscles to cramp or tear during physical exertion. Movements afterwards are painful and limited and the muscle might feel like there is a hard knot in it, like when you get a “crick” in your neck. However, second and third degree strains are more serious require specific treatment for optimal recovery.


Whiplash falls under the acute muscular strain category. During a whiplash-type traumatic event, the head is thrown violently forward which can overstretch the muscles and the soft tissues in the neck. The neck muscles react by shortening their fibres in an effort to stabilize, rapidly jerking the head back again. The damage can be caused either by the head being jerked forward or by the head being snapped back. Whiplash occurs most commonly in motor vehicle accidents and can range from mild to very severe. Symptoms can appear up to 72 hours after the event and are typically headache, neck stiffness, neck pain, and tenderness over the upper part of the spine and back of the skull.

Muscular Strain – Chronic

Sometimes muscle strain can occur from a repetitive or work-related injury. Sitting at a desk or computer too long while holding your neck or back in an abnormal position can cause strain. Think of holding the phone with your neck as another example of how your neck can be strained. Bad posture can also cause chronic muscle strain increasing the chance of long-term structural damage in soft tissues and joints.

Chronic Conditions

Cervical Spondylosis or Cervical Osteoarthritis

Cervical spondylosis (also called cervical osteoarthritis) is a general term for the arthritic breakdown of intervertebral joints and spinal discs. It is typically associated with abnormal bone growth and progressive loss of normal structure of spinal discs, or disc degeneration. Cervical bone spurs are common markers of cervical osteoarthritis.

Most commonly, patients experience only neck pain. However, other patients can experience arm pain (radiculopathy) due to a pinched nerve.  A small group of patients can develop difficulty with walking and loss of hand function due to the compression of the spinal cord (myelopathy).

  • Symptoms of Cervical Osteoarthritis
  • Pain that goes to the shoulder or between the shoulder blades.
  • Pain and stiffness that is worse in the morning but improves after getting up and moving.
  • Pain becomes more severe at the end of the day.
  • Pain decreases with rest.
  • May include headaches (particularly at the back of the head).

Cervical Herniated Disc

A cervical herniated disc happens when part of the spinal disc between two neck vertebrae has been pushed out of its normal position and into the space of the spinal canal. When this happens, the spinal cord and nerve roots become vulnerable to injury from the protruding disc. Typically, the outer ring of the disc is torn, causing the inner fluid to spill into the canal and irritate the nerve root. Both can cause neck pain.

There are several types of cervical disc herniations that typically classified as soft or hard.

  • Soft herniation – general more acute.
  • Hard herniation – generally a more chronic condition where secondary degenerative changes have also occurred.
  • Both types cause neural compression (pinching of the nerve), and produce similar symptoms causing neck pain.

Since herniations most commonly occur toward the side of the spinal canal where the nerve roots are located, symptoms are generally nerve root irritation (including pain radiating into the arm).  This includes neck pain, tingling or burning sensation, and numbness. Some muscle weakness can also occur.

Cervical Stenosis

Cervical stenosis is the narrowing of the spinal canal in the neck and can occur for a number of reasons like disc herniation, degenerative disc disease, or spondylosis. Cervical stenosis can develop from being born with a narrow spinal canal. This leaves the spinal cord vulnerable to compression from degenerative diseases that cause bony overgrowth and disc degeneration, further narrowing the spinal canal over time.

Generally symptoms (if there are no further spinal cord compression factors) are typically limited to neck pain and sensations of tingling, numbness, and a burning sensation. These symptoms can overlap with those of cervical myelopathy.

Cervical Myelopathy

Cervical myelopathy refers to a dysfunction of the spinal cord, typically as the result of cervical stenosis and herniated discs. Bones spurs and dislocation and/or fracture of the neck or any other traumatic injury can also be causes. Cervical myelopathy symptoms include neck pain and stiffness, axial neck pain (not always present), occipital headache, numbness, tingling, and burning sensation.

Why wait to feel better?

Research clearly shows that the sooner you start treatment for pain or injury, the higher your chances of feeling relief quickly. At pt Health, our clinicians are recognized leaders in the health care field. Many have respected roles in regulatory bodies, provincial associations, government committees, and mentorship programs. pt Health clinicians also train other health care professionals through continuing education courses and in post-secondary institutions. We believe our patients deserve the best treatment possible. That is why our clinicians continue to learn, teach, collaborate, and innovate throughout their careers at pt Health.

pt Health clinicians understand the complexities of pain, injury, and managing ongoing neck pain concerns. We believe that every patient’s experience is unique and important. We have a team of dedicated, compassionate, and committed professionals who work together to make sure that you get well and stay well.

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Lloyd's StoryLloyd’s story

A High School Basketball Player Seeks Help for his SI Joint Dysfunction

Lloyd is 63 and works in the communications department of his local municipal government. He’s always been pretty active and he and his wife enjoy going on day-long hikes on the trails and parks in and around their town.

Recently though, Lloyd has been experiencing a lot of neck pain – even carrying his backpack for part of a day hike is proving to be really uncomfortable. At the urging of his wife, he went to his family doctor who suggested he get some x-rays. The x-rays ruled out any trauma or acute injury. However, they did show that Lloyd has mild cervical osteoarthritis – arthritis in his neck.

Lloyd’s family doctor reassured him and said that this condition could be managed, but that he wanted to refer Lloyd for physiotherapy. The doctor recommended the pt Health physiotherapy clinic’s Neck Pain Program. The clinic was on the first floor of his medical building. Lloyd walked downstairs and made an appointment for later that week.

Beginning of treatment

Lloyd’s pt Health physiotherapist told him that – as part of the intake for the pt Health Neck Pain Program – it was important to get a full picture of Lloyd’s lifestyle and work habits as well as a physical assessment. She wanted to ensure that she could tailor a treatment plan that would give him an optimal chance to properly manage his condition.

Much to Lloyd’s surprise, his physiotherapist questioned him about a large range of things. When talking on the phone, did he hold the headset between his neck and head? Was he confident he had the right eyeglass prescription? For example, did he find himself having to tilt his head back to read the computer screen at work? What sleeping position did he prefer – side, back, or stomach?

Why all the questions?

Once he answered everything, Lloyd said he was puzzled by her questions. His physiotherapist explained that there are many things we do during the day that can negatively impact someone with cervical osteoarthritis. For example, because Lloyd said that he did often tilt his head back to look at the computer screen, she suggested that Lloyd have his eyesight tested again to see if he needed bifocals. She told him that simply tilting his head back multiple times a day – or holding the phone between the head and shoulder – place a lot of stress on the neck that would worsen his condition.

She stated that, since Lloyd was a side sleeper, she’d like him to try a cervical pillow. The pillow would help to take stress off his neck while he slept by filling in the empty space between his neck and the bed. She also said that Lloyd’s height – about 6’4 – probably also meant that he extended his neck a lot in order to talk down to people shorter than he was. That in turn was affecting his posture, causing him to slouch slightly rather than straight – another stressor for the neck. Lloyd could hardly believe that many of the things he did during the day could have such an impact!


Lloyd’s physiotherapist concentrated first on relieving some of the discomfort Lloyd was experiencing by using acupuncture and moist heat to help relax the muscles. She said that her main goal was going to be trying to positively influence his posture by working on the muscles surrounding his neck. She reassured him that there was really no need to change any of his normal activities unless they caused pain. So hiking was still fine! Lloyd knew his wife would be glad to hear it.

Getting stronger and standing up straight!

As Lloyd’s sessions progressed, the physio did some gentle manual therapy and started to work on strengthening the stabilizing muscles in Lloyd’s neck. She explained that it was important to be sure that the deep muscles were working and that muscle balance around the neck was good. She also encouraged Lloyd to book sessions with the massage therapist to keep his muscles supple and to help unlock tension and maintain flexibility. She also kept reminding Lloyd to maintain good posture. She suggested that he think about his posture every time he walked through a door. Lloyd jokingly told his wife that meant he ended up thinking about posture approximately a thousand times a day.


Just over two months later, Lloyd is feeling great. The cervical pillow at night has helped tremendously. He found out he did, in fact, need a prescription for bifocals. His grandson helped him pick out some “sweet” frames. He uses the speaker phone a lot more in his office to curb his bad habit of holding the phone between his head and shoulder. Between the exercises that he does with his pt Health physiotherapist during sessions and at home, he feels confident that he’ll be able to manage his cervical osteoarthritis without any trouble. It’s also a great excuse to get his wife to carry the backpack on some of their longer hikes.

Coverage Options

At pt Health, we know that sorting out insurance paperwork can be time-consuming and confusing. We want your focus to be on getting well and staying well. With that in mind, we do our best to help you navigate through the necessary forms. We speak with your insurance providers and we’ll answer any questions you may have about your coverage.

pt Health services are covered by most health care insurance plans.  In most cases, if you are using your extended health care carrier or work plan, we do not require you to pay for your therapy sessions up front.* Instead, we bill your insurance company on your behalf.
If you have extended health care benefits that cover therapy, most auto insurance companies require that your claim be placed through your extended health plan first. Any remaining balances for services are then covered by your auto insurance plan. On your first visit, you may be asked to provide information about your extended health plan. If you do not have extended health care benefits that cover therapy, your treatments may be billed directly through your auto insurance company. For residents of British Columbia, ICBC covers a partial amount of treatment visits. Patients will be asked to co-pay the difference at each visit. If a patient has extended health care benefits, it is possible to claim the difference back.
Although each clinic’s approach to intake, assessment and therapy do vary, generally speaking your physiotherapist will ask a series of questions that will help better describe all of your symptoms in detail. Your physiotherapist can then carry out your assessment. The physiotherapist will examine you physically and discuss the findings, the cause of the problem, and suggest a solution that can effectively treat your health problem.
OHIP covered physiotherapy services must be provided by a designated OHIP physiotherapy clinic. OHIP covers physiotherapy treatments, but does not cover the cost of an initial assessment. To qualify for OHIP coverage, you must have a medial doctor’s referral, be 19 years or younger, be 65 years or older, or be receiving benefits under the Ontario Disability Support Program or Family Works. If you have been admitted overnight in hospital for a condition that now requires physiotherapy, you are also eligible.
Some pt Health clinics will be able to bill Blue Cross direction for physiotherapy and massage therapy treatments if you are a member of:

  • RCMP
  • DND
  • Canadian Forces
  • Veterans Affairs

For any treatments that are only partially covered, you may be asked to co-pay the difference at each visit.

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