What is neck pain?
There are many different types of neck pain, ranging from severe, acute pain to low grade intermittent aching. Physiotherapy can help with neck pain. Pain and other associated symptoms are commonly due to the spine moving incorrectly, causing stimulation of pain-sensitive structures.
Why does neck pain happen?
The neck (cervical spine) is made up of 7 single bones (vertebrae). Each bone allows movement of the head and neck by gliding on the bones above and below. The bones are supported by a complex system of muscles, joints, ligaments and discs. Nerves and blood vessels are protected by the bony structures as they exit the spinal column to supply the head and upper limbs. Any of these structures can be strained, irritated or damaged by everyday life including:-
- a sudden incident or injury.
- repetitive activities.
- sustained poor postures, especially when sitting.
- general 'wear and tear' or degenerative changes.
Who is usually affected?
Anyone can get neck pain because there are many different causes. See below for more details.
Symptoms of neck pain
Symptoms of neck pain include:
- Pain in the neck
- Neck ache
- stiffness or
- tightness in any part of the neck or shoulders
Pain can be sharp or may be dull, diffuse and aching. It may be aggravated by movement or by rest. Sometimes pain may be felt in the shoulder, jaw or cause headache. Pain can radiate down the arm and this may be due to irritation of one of the nerves. When the pain travels down the arm, this is often referred to as a 'trapped nerve'.
Physiotherapy is very effective for the treatment of neck pain. Thorough assessment will help determine the structures causing the pain.
Treatment will be tailored individually and may include:
- ‘Hands- on’ specific joint movements / mobilisations
- Massage and stretching of muscles and ligaments.
- Electro-therapy - e.g. ultrasound, interferential or laser.
- Strapping - using taping techniques to support the neck.
Simple exercises and advice on posture and activity will be given to help you return to your normal lifestyle and minimize recurrence.
What you can do about neck pain
- Stay active if you can. ‘Hurt’ does not necessarily mean ‘harm’.
- Take simple painkillers to help manage the pain. You may wish to consult a pharmacist or doctor on this matter.
- Stay positive.
- Use a hot or cold pack wrapped in a towel to reduce the pain and help reduce muscle tension
Neck pain is rarely serious, but if you have concerns about persistent neck, arm pain or headaches, consult your Doctor. A few things to be aware of, and consult your Doctor if you have:
- Persistent, unremitting pain
- Pain associated with dizziness, vomiting, fever,
- Any new headaches.
Neck Pain and Everday Life;
Neck Pain from working at a computer
Neck and upper back pain are common in those who spend a lot of time sitting and working with computers/monitors. Often this is due to poor, unsupported posture, but especially when sustained for long periods of time. The joints in the neck/upper back become stiff and irritated. This can result in:
- Pain in the neck, shoulder, upper back
- Jaw, face pain
- Repetitive Strain Injury
The nerves which supply the arms may also become irritated and this can result in symptoms radiating down into the shoulder, arm and hand, e.g. pain, pins and needles, numbness. This is often described as trapped nerves.
What you can do
Examine your workspace to see if there are any improvements you can make for example:
- adjust your back rest to allow continuous support of your back.
- you may be able to adjust the lumbar support.
- adjust the height to ensure your feet are flat on the floor. Ensure there is adequate support for your thigh, without the chair digging into the back of your knee.
- Ensure there is adequate room to manoeuvre your mouse, reach your telephone etc.
- Avoid excessive stretching, reaching or twisting.
- Avoid glare on your screen where possible.
- Ensure there is adequate task lighting where required.
- Ensure your screen is at a comfortable height to avoid peering or poking your chin forwards.
- Ensure you have the correct spectacles.
- Monitor your posture – imagine there is a piece of string through your body up to the ceiling which helps to keep you upright with relaxed shoulders.
- Take regular breaks and vary your tasks to avoid repetition.
Gentle exercise and specific stretches will help improve your fitness and relieve postural pain.
NB: Some workplaces will offer an ergonomic assessment of your workstation
What your physiotherapist can do
Postural symptoms respond very well to Physiotherapy management. At Balmoral Physiotherapy Gosforth we have a team of experienced Physiotherapists and massage therapists who can identify the cause of your problems, relieve the symptoms and help prevent recurrence.
Treatment options may include:
- Graded movements/mobilisation of the joints and surrounding muscles to help reduce stiffness.
- Therapeutic massage to relieve tension and tightness of muscles
- Electrotherapy can help reduce pain
- Taping to support painful areas and help re-educate positioning
- Acupuncture for pain relief
- Specific, tailored exercises to suit your daily routine
- Postural advice and guidance
- General rehabilitation and core stability – which may include Pilates. Balmoral Physiotherapy can offer one to one pilates as well as group sessions. Why not Call us to enquire about taking part 0191 284 0087
NECK PAIN FROM SPORT
Neck pain during or after swimming is often due to the swimming position.
Breast stroke, in particular, can result in stiffness of the joints at the bottom of the neck or upper back due to the position of the head. This is especially common if swimming with the head held out of the water.
Joints and muscles in the neck may also be strained by repetition of stroke pattern or breathing pattern. For example, if breaths are always taken to the same side.
Neck pain during cycling may be related to the cycling position. Cycling with low slung handle bars in a forward lean position may mean that the rider has to tip the upper neck back and poke the chin forwards to see the road. This can result in stiffening of the joints of the neck (cervical spine) and imbalance of the muscles around the neck and shoulders.
What you can do
- Ensure you follow a gentle warm up / cool down regime.
- Avoid repetition, or long periods of sport without a break. Vary your stroke or cycling position within your training session.
- Allow sufficient time to recover between training/exercise sessions.
- Seek advice from a Physiotherapist who can help with your training regime, posture and tailored exercises.
What your physiotherapist can do
At Balmoral Physiotherapy Gosforth we are here to help you continue your sport/leisure activity. Physiotherapy may inclue:
- Assessment of the joints, muscles and soft tissues around the neck, mid back and shoulders to pinpoint the cause of your symptoms.
- Graded mobilisation of stiff joints to help relieve pain and restore normal movement.
- Massage of tight muscles.
- Posture advice and re-education.
- Tailored, specific exercises to help address any muscle imbalance.
- Taping to support structures and help healing.
- Advice on training regime and how to prevent recurrence.
NECK PAIN AND WHIPLASH INJURY
Neck pain and headaches are common injuries associated with whiplash injuries sustained in a motor vehicle accident or fall.
Whiplash associated injuries respond very well to physiotherapy and here at Balmoral Physiotherapy Gosforth, we have an excellent track record for the treatment and rehabilitation following whiplash injury.
NECK PAIN FROM USING MOBILE DEVICES, TABLETS AND LAPTOPS
Neck pain can result from prolonged or repetitive use of mobile devices such as tablets, laptops and gaming devices. Learn more about healthy use of mobile devices in our advice section.
Physiotherapy can help. Often pain is simply due to poor or, unsupported posture and can improve with some simple changes to behaviour.
Balmoral Physiotherapy Gosforth has a team of experienced therapists who are here to help relieve you neck pain and associated symptoms.
For more information, or to book an appointment, Call us on 0191 284 0087.
Call us on 0191 284 0087 to discuss how physiotherapy can help your neck pain.