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Being unable to turn your head is something many of us take for granted—until you can’t turn your head. It is at that point that you realize how many things you need to turn your head for in life.

The inability to turn your head can result from the fact that one of your spinal segments no longer moves properly with the segment above or below it.

If you reach your hand behind your neck and touch the center of your spine, you can feel what is called the spinous process. Behind the spinous process are bones that extend down toward the segment below. The segment below also has bones that extend upward.

When these sets of bones meet, they form what is called a facet joint. The facets are connected by fibrous tissue called the joint capsule. The facets allow the neck and head to turn, side bend and look up and down, but are also responsible for not allowing too much motion in one direction or another.

On occasion, the facet joints get “stuck” or don’t glide, as they should, which causes inability to turn your head since it creates an inflammatory response, which causes the muscles around your neck to go into spasm. That, of course, limits your ability to turn your head.

Along with the inability to turn your head, you may also notice that you have headaches that originate in the base (back) of the skull, and possibly pain that radiates into the upper arm.

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So how do you get rid of this issue so that you can turn your head to drive, wake up pain free and able to turn your head?

The physical therapists at Cardin and Miller Physical Therapy are experts in the diagnosis and treatment of neck and back pain. We would perform an hour evaluation on you to determine the reason for the loss of neck range of motion by checking your strength and range of motion, as well as perform special tests that tell us what structure is actually causing your neck pain and stiffness.

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If you truly have a facet joint that is stuck, there are manual mobilization techniques, flexibility and strength exercises that can be done to restore the normal facet joint motion. Restoring normal facet joint mechanics will restore your ability to turn your head to drive and allow you to wake in the morning without neck pain or stiffness.

If you have a stiff neck with limited ability to turn your head or just plain neck pain, call 717-245-0400 to schedule your free screen with one of our physical therapists so that you can chat with them one-on-one to determine whether you are a candidate for physical therapy or need further testing.

If you have a question you would like me to answer in one of my upcoming columns, please email your question to smiller@cardinmillerpt.com.

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Steve Miller is the owner of Cardin and Miller Physical Therapy and can be reached by email at smiller@cardinmillerpt.com. His column will appear bi-monthly in the Thrive section of the Sentinel and on Cumberlink.com.

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