How Biofeedback Can Treat Neck Pain
By Effie Koustas, MSPT
Biofeedback therapy is a drug-free treatment that physical therapists often use to treat muscular problems. In addition to helping preferentially strengthen specific muscles, it can also be used to help relax unwanted muscle tension to prevent or treat conditions such as migraine and tension headaches and chronic pain. Here at FPTS, we use a device called the Pressure Biofeedback Unit (PBU) to help strengthen the deep neck flexors that are often a culprit in neck pain.
The deep neck flexors are small stabilizing muscles located on the anterior (front) and anterior-lateral (front and off to the side) areas of the cervical spine vertebrae. They are tiny and found deep to the Sternocleidomastoid (SCM) muscle, which is the big muscle most people can see on the sides of the front of their neck. The deep neck flexor muscles include the Longus Capitis and Longus Colli muscles.
The PBU is a non-invasive technique that helps to retrain the brain by replacing negative stimuli with positive ones. While lying down, we place the partially-inflated cuff behind your neck and you can see the pressure change you create when working the proper muscles. It is a visual indicator of how effectively you are firing these muscles to move your neck. Often, our bodies will compensate for various reasons, and we end up using secondary muscles to fire in their place to complete the task of lengthening or elongating your neck.
As we age, our posture can take a toll if we are not aware of how tall we stand. It is very common to have a forward head posture, which in turns lengthen the muscles in the front of your neck and shortens the muscles in the back of your neck. This is one postural fault that we commonly see in the clinic when patients are complaining of neck pain. Using the PBU is one way of correcting our posture while simultaneously decreasing pain. This along with other tools used in the clinic will help you be well on your way to living pain free.