Addressing Neck Pain in Parkinson’s Disease: Understanding and Management

Addressing Neck Pain in Parkinson's Disease: Understanding and Management

Neck pain is an ailment that many people encounter in their daily lives, but for those living with Parkinson’s disease, it can be an especially challenging symptom to contend with. While Parkinson’s is primarily known for its hallmark motor symptoms like tremors and rigidity, non-motor symptoms, such as neck pain, can also significantly affect a person’s quality of life. This article aims to shed light on the link between Parkinson’s and neck pain and various Parkinson’s neck pain treatment strategies that can offer relief.

Is Neck Pain Common In Parkinson’s Disease?

Is Neck Pain Common In Parkinson's Disease?Yes, neck pain is a common non-motor symptom experienced by individuals with Parkinson’s disease (PD). While the primary symptoms of Parkinson’s are related to movement, such as tremors, rigidity, and bradykinesia (slowed movement), many individuals with the condition also experience a range of non-motor symptoms.

Neck pain in Parkinson’s disease can be attributed to several factors:

  • Muscular Rigidity

The increased muscle tone and stiffness that many people with Parkinson’s experience can contribute to neck pain. This rigidity can make the neck muscles feel tight and less flexible.

  • Postural Changes

People with PD often develop a characteristic stooped posture, where the head and upper body lean forward. This posture can place added strain on the neck muscles and cervical spine.

  • Dystonia

This refers to involuntary muscle contractions that can result in abnormal postures or movements. Cervical dystonia, which affects the neck muscles, can be a symptom of PD. And can cause painful twisting or turning of the head.

  • Medication-Induced Dyskinesias

Dyskinesias are involuntary, often jerky movements that can be a side effect of certain PD medications. When these movements involve the neck, they can lead to discomfort or pain.

  • Secondary Issues

Neck pain in PD patients may not always be directly due to the disease itself. Issues like arthritis of the cervical spine, disc problems, or other unrelated conditions can also be the source of pain.

If someone with Parkinson’s is experiencing neck pain or any new symptoms, it’s essential to consult with a neurologist or movement disorder specialist. They will surely evaluate the cause and determine appropriate treatments.

What Are Some Parkinson’s Neck Pain Treatment?

What Are Some Parkinson's Neck Pain Treatment?Managing neck pain in Parkinson’s disease requires a multifaceted approach that can address both the underlying Parkinson’s symptoms and the specific causes of the neck pain. Here are some common Parkinson’s neck pain treatment options and strategies:

Medication Adjustments

  • Parkinson’s Medications: Dopaminergic medications, like levodopa/carbidopa (Sinemet), are the mainstay of Parkinson’s treatment. Their primary function is to increase or mimic dopamine, a neurotransmitter that’s deficient in PD patients. By optimizing these medications, symptoms such as rigidity and dystonia can be controlled better. If these symptoms are contributing to neck pain, their management can lead to a reduction in discomfort.
  • Pain Relievers: Over-the-counter medications can be beneficial for many individuals. For example, acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help reduce pain, while NSAIDs, like ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve), not only alleviate pain but also reduce inflammation. However, it’s essential to remember that prolonged use of NSAIDs can have side effects, like gastrointestinal issues, so it’s crucial to use them under the guidance of a physician.
  • Muscle Relaxants: Drugs like baclofen, tizanidine, or cyclobenzaprine can help relax muscle spasms. These are especially beneficial for those who experience dystonia or intense muscle stiffness. However, they can also cause drowsiness or other side effects, so they should be used judiciously.

Physical Therapy

  • Targeted Exercises: A physical therapist can design a personalized exercise regimen focusing on neck strengthening and flexibility. These exercises can help balance muscle strength around the neck, reducing the likelihood of strains and improving overall mobility.
  • Postural Training: A significant issue in PD is the tendency towards a stooped posture. By retraining the body’s postural reflexes, one can achieve a more upright posture, relieving the pressure and strain on the neck. This might involve mirror exercises, balance training, and feedback-driven techniques.
  • Stretching: Regular stretching routines can help lengthen and relax the neck muscles. Techniques might include gentle neck tilts, turns, and stretches using aids like resistance bands or foam rollers.

Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapists focus on improving patients’ abilities to perform daily activities. For a Parkinson’s patient with neck pain, this might involve:

  • Adaptive Techniques: Learning new ways to perform daily tasks that minimize neck strain, such as adjusting the way one reads a book or watches TV.
  • Ergonomic Adjustments: Making modifications to the home or workplace setting, like raising a computer monitor to eye level, to reduce the need for neck bending and straining.
  • Assistive Devices: Using tools that can help with tasks, for instance, long-handled reachers that reduce the need to bend or strain the neck.

Heat and Cold Therapy

  • Heat: Applying heat can help increase blood flow, relax muscles, and reduce stiffness. Heat therapy can be in the form of warm compresses, heating pads, or even warm showers. It’s essential to ensure the heat isn’t too intense to prevent burns or further inflammation.
  • Cold: Cold therapy or cryotherapy can be useful in reducing inflammation and numbing the painful area. Cold packs or even a bag of frozen peas can be applied to the painful region. It’s important to wrap any cold sources in a cloth or towel to prevent frostbite on the skin.

Alternative Therapies

Alternative Therapies

  • Acupuncture: This ancient Chinese therapy involves inserting very fine needles into specific points on the body to stimulate the body’s natural healing processes and alleviate pain. For those with Parkinson’s experiencing neck pain, acupuncture may help balance the body’s energy flow (known as “qi” or “chi”) and reduce muscle tension. Regular sessions with a certified acupuncturist might be required to maintain benefits.
  • Massage: Therapeutic massage targets muscle tension and promotes relaxation. A licensed massage therapist can use various techniques, from deep tissue massage to Swedish massage, to address stiff and painful neck muscles in Parkinson’s patients. Massage can also help in improving circulation to the affected area, further promoting healing and relaxation.
  • Chiropractic Care: Chiropractic adjustments aim to improve spinal alignment and function. For some PD patients, neck pain may arise from misalignments in the cervical spine. A chiropractor experienced with Parkinson’s can provide manual adjustments or recommend other treatments to alleviate neck pain. However, it’s crucial to ensure that chiropractic care is suitable for the individual, given their medical history and the nature of Parkinson’s disease.

Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS)

DBS is a surgical procedure where electrodes are implanted into specific regions of the brain. These electrodes are connected to a pacemaker-like device implanted in the chest. The device sends electrical pulses to the brain to help regulate abnormal impulses. For some Parkinson’s patients, DBS can lead to significant relief from both motor and non-motor symptoms, including those contributing to neck pain. Before considering DBS, a thorough evaluation is necessary to determine if a patient is a suitable candidate.

Botulinum Toxin Injections

Commonly known by the brand name Botox, botulinum toxin is a neurotoxic protein used for various medical treatments. In the context of Parkinson’s neck pain treatment, Botox can be injected into specific neck muscles to relieve the symptoms of cervical dystonia, a condition where there are involuntary contractions of the neck muscles, causing abnormal postures and movements. The injections temporarily paralyze or weaken the muscles, providing relief from spasms and pain. The effects are temporary, typically lasting a few months, so repeat injections may be required.

Supportive Devices

  • Neck Braces or Collars: These can provide external support to the neck, helping to reduce strain on the muscles and joints. They can be especially helpful for those with significant neck weakness or instability. However, prolonged use can lead to muscle atrophy, so they’re usually recommended for short durations or specific activities.
  • Cervical Pillows: These are specially designed pillows to support the natural curve of the neck during sleep. They can help reduce the strain on the neck muscles and cervical spine overnight, leading to reduced pain and better sleep quality.

Again, it’s crucial to remember that the effectiveness of these Parkinson’s neck pain treatment options can vary from one individual to another. Collaborating closely with a healthcare team ensures that the chosen treatments align well with a patient’s specific symptoms and overall health status.

What Are Some Preventive Tips?

What Are Some Preventive Tips?Certainly! Here are some preventive tips for neck pain in Parkinson’s patients:

  • Maintain Good Posture: Keep the head aligned with the spine.
  • Adjust Screen Height: Ensure screens (like computers or TVs) are at eye level.
  • Regular Exercise: Strengthen neck and upper back muscles.
  • Ergonomic Workspaces: Use chairs with proper neck and lumbar support.
  • Limit Neck Strain: Avoid cradling the phone between the shoulder and ear.
  • Regular Stretching: Incorporate daily neck stretches.
  • Use Cervical Pillows: Support the neck’s natural curve while sleeping.
  • Stay Hydrated: Helps maintain soft tissue elasticity.
  • Breaks During Tasks: Take regular breaks if a task requires prolonged neck positioning.
  • Physical Therapy: Attend sessions to improve posture and muscle strength.
  • Avoid Heavy Loads: Don’t carry heavy bags on one shoulder; use a backpack or a bag with a cross-body strap.

While neck pain is a common non-motor symptom in Parkinson’s disease, there are numerous preventive measures individuals can adopt to minimize its impact. By integrating these simple yet effective strategies into daily routines, one can enhance their overall quality of life and better manage the challenges posed by Parkinson’s. It’s essential to remember that each person’s journey with Parkinson’s is unique. So, it’s crucial to find what works best for you and to seek guidance from healthcare professionals when necessary.


In conclusion, Parkinson’s disease, while primarily recognized for its motor symptoms, often brings with it the challenge of neck pain. However, with a comprehensive understanding of the potential treatments—from medication adjustments to alternative therapies—and the integration of preventive measures, individuals can navigate this challenge more effectively.

As each Parkinson’s journey is unique, open communication with healthcare professionals and a proactive approach to well-being can significantly improve the quality of life for those facing this multifaceted condition. If you’re experiencing Neck pain, physical therapy for neck pain at PhysioMantra can help: Book an online physical therapy session.