The neck is very mobile, which means that it is inherently less stable than other areas of the body and more susceptible to injury. Neck injuries and poor posture are the most common causes of neck pain. However, neck injuries can also result from motor vehicle, sports or workplace accidents. It is important to note that while a minor incident may not have hurt, it can cause damage to verteberae, joints, nerves, discs, ligaments and muscles. Diseases such as arthritis or degeneration of the discs can also cause pain.
There are numerous causes of neck pain and it is vital that an accurate diagnosis of the cause of your neck pain is well established. This ensures that an appropriate and effective treatment plan can be implemented. Furthermore, knowing which aggravating factors to avoid in the future will be highly beneficial to prevent a future reoccurrence.
We recommend consulting a physiotherapist for the most accurate diagnosis and best treatment for your neck pain.
HOW YOUR NECK PAIN MAY BE PRESENTING?
- Sharp stabbing pain
- Dull ache
- Grabbing sensation
- Difficulty moving neck in a certain range
- Sensation of feeling locked/blocked when turning to a side
- Tension headaches
ABOUT YOUR SPINE
To better understand your neck pain, it is helpful to have a clearer understanding of your spine and how it works.
Your spine is divided into FOUR sections:
Neck - 7 cervical vertebrae.
Mid back - 12 thoracic vertebrae.
Lower back - 5 lumbar vertebrae and the sacrum and coccyx vertebrae which are joined together.
The head is supported by the neck which is made up of seven small bones called a vertebrae which is stacked on top of each other to form a column. In between these vertebraes are discs of cartilage which have a soft jelly-like inside to act as shock absorbers. There are 24 vertebrae in the spine and they are all joined by pairs of small joints known as facet joints.
Tough ligaments are woven around these structures provide passive stability. While strong muscles facilitate movement and dynamic support.
Your spinal cord runs through the centre of the vertebral column and connects your brain to the rest of your body via nerves which pass through spaces between the vertebrae.
COMMON NECK PAIN CONDITIONS
This may be caused by factors such as poor posture while at work, while using electronic devices, or while watching TV. They can also happen during sports or can be due to poor neck support while sleeping. Increased working hours, high levels of anxiety and stress can increase the risk of this condition.
STOP. Take notice of your neck position right this instance. Is it poked forward whilst reading this? An increased forward head position (poke neck) places excessive load onto the joints of our neck and forces the muscles to overwork. This in turn often results in soreness of the joints which are being overloaded and/or muscles soreness that can eventually lead to pain.
Usually occurs on waking in the morning due to a specific incident the day before i.e. quick movement of the neck or heavy lifting. There is usually presenting pain and stiffness in the neck or upper back with a significant lost of range of motion often to one side. Muscle spasms and postural deformity (often with the head cocked to one side) are common features as well.
Occurs when the tough outside layer of a disc tears or ruptures and the soft jelly-like inside bulges out. It is common for these disc bulges to press on the nerves of your spine which can result in referred pain into your hands, fingers or arms.
Is described as a sensation of pain that is felt in a location other than the site of an injury. Referred pain in the upper arm can present in the shoulder, elbow or hands. This can arise from many structures in the neck and shoulder. To determine the cause a physiotherapy assessment is needed, followed up by a treatment plan.
Are a result of pain that develops in the neck. They are deemed a secondary headache which means they are caused by an underlying condition such as neck injuries, infections, or severe high blood pressure.
Can be thought of arthritis in the neck. As you age, the space between your neck joints (vertebrae) decreases, causing the joints to rub together. In some cases small extra/unwanted bony prominences can begin to arise from the increased rubbing of the joints, adding to further discomfort of the neck. If these bony prominences push on the nerves of the neck, tingling/numbness in the arms can be experienced, in cases like this it is important to seek immediate medical intervention via your physiotherapist.
An acceleration/deceleration injury of the neck as a result of a motor vehicle accident, sports injury or fall where the neck is forcefully thrown forwards, and then backwards. The symptoms of whiplash often include stiffness, reduced range of movement, pain, headaches and even referred arm pain. There could be tenderness when touching certains areas of the spine. This is a serious condition and should be reviewed by a trained practitioner to limit any potential long term issues.
Rest assured, ALL of these conditions are well treated with the intervention of a physiotherapist. Taking a thorough subjective history and conducting a thorough physical assessment ensures key areas of aggravating factors and causes are and then analysed in order to prepare a comprehensive treatment plan.
PHYSIOTHERAPY FOR NECK PAIN?
Physiotherapists are highly skilled with diagnosis and providing neck pain treatment. A physiotherapist will start with taking a thorough subjective examination, delving into the history of the condition and assessing aggravating/alleviating factors which combined with what they find in the physical examination will allow them to establish an accurate diagnosis.
During the physical assessment the physiotherapist will comprehensively assess the movement of joints, muscles, ligaments and overall movements patterns/restrictions as well as postural control and positioning to get an idea of how your body is functioning.
If a more serious pathology is plausible, your physiotherapist may refer you to a doctor for further testing and investigations. This can be done to either rule out or in serious conditions which can thoroughly be determined via medical investigations such as x-rays, CT or MRI scans.
However research evidence shows that findings on scans may not necessarily correspond with a patient's symptoms and can represent the normal passage of time. It is important to cross analyse the findings of any medical interventions with findings of the subjective/physical examination to ensure an accurate diagnosis is made and the best treatment plan established.
For advice specific to the diagnosis and management of YOUR neck pain choose one of the options below.
BEST NECK PAIN TREATMENT
The MOST pivotal factor in your neck pain treatment is thoroughly determining the CAUSE of your neck pain and then working to effectively treat this and prevent these recurring. Most instances of neck pain are muscular and will relieve on its own. It is important to continue to keep active and engage in your normal activities as best you can whilst avoiding any aggravating factors whilst this occurs. Where neck pain has not eased in a few days or where it is chronic, it is greatly advised to seek the intervention of a physiotherapist.
As outlined above Physiotherapists are highly skilled with diagnosis and treating conditions like neck pain. Most neck pain comes from your neck joints and muscles. Researchers show that a combination of joint and muscle treatment performed by your physiotherapist and some specific stretching/strengthening exercises are an effective way to eliminate your neck pain and stiffness.
Continue reading below for what a physiotherapist can do for you.
NECK PAIN PHYSIO TREATMENT
PAIN RELIEF - Physiotherapists can reduce your pain through soft tissue therapy and mobilisation, which helps with your physical sensation of pain and works to alleviate stress and muscle tension. They will also advise you on what you should or shouldn’t do for further pain relief.
Stop your neck pain from happening again! – Physiotherapists will gain an insight into what has triggered your neck pain and develop strategies to reduce the risk of it recurring. Factors such as work set up, sleeping/sitting position, sports/activities are common causes of neck pain and can be easily altered to prevent an issue recurring.
Finding out which pillow is best for you - Some pillows may cause your neck to bend irregularly, placing too much stress on the neck.
Education on postural awareness and control - bad posture tends to snowball, increasingly placing excess stress on your neck muscles and joints. This causes the joints to be overloaded and muscles overworked, likely contributing to your symptoms.
Exercises for increased support of the neck - Strengthening exercises of the neck and shoulder muscles help to to support surrounding joints and reduce unwanted loading.
Physiotherapists provide you with education and understanding of your neck and factors which may influence it. They will provide you with self management and treatment strategies to ensure you can successfully manage your neck issues.
Ultimately physiotherapists provide YOU with the skills to ensure you keep your neck healthy and prevent issues recurring.
If you're suffering from neck pain and are sick and tired of it choose from one of the options below to get started on the path to recovery!
NECK PAIN PREVENTION
The key to preventing neck pain is keeping your spine flexible and strong. In most cases neck pain can be prevented by making a few lifestyle changes.
Exercise regularly – this will improve your posture and improve your overall muscle strength and capacity for load. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate physical activity most days. This can be broken into shorter blocks of exercise if you prefer. Exercising with a friend or as part of a team is also a great idea and helps keep you motivated. If you need help getting started, or you haven’t exercised in a while, talk with your physiotherapist about where and how to start.
Develop good posture – being aware and able to control your posture, particularly when sitting at work/home/car plays an immense role in keeping your neck healthy preventing any issues. Avoiding slouching, poking your chin out and working with your head down for long periods of time are some main positions to steer clear of.
Finding the sleeping position which works best for you - If you have a painful neck avoid sleeping on your stomach as it over extends and rotates your neck. Additionally, choosing the right pillow, mattress and sleeping position is key to ensuring your neck rests properly whilst sleeping.
Take regular stretch breaks – when you’re driving, standing or sitting for long periods of time. Every hour or so, take a moment to stretch or move about. This will help change the position of your joints and decrease extra stress on your muscles.
Work ergonomics - It is important to have a work set up established in a way that reduces risk factors that lead to musculoskeletal injuries and allows for improved human performance and productivity.
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