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What a pain in the neck

seville health neckpain2

Neck pain is extremely common. Whilst neck pain can occur at any age, it is most common in middle-late age and often effects females more than males. If you consider the weight of the average human head being around 4.5kg-5kg, this is a lot for a fairly narrow base (the neck) to support. It’s no wonder neck pain is so common.

Causes

Whilst neck pain can occur due to an acute episode, it may also occur due to degenerative or arthritic conditions. Occasionally neck pain can be of more sinister causes including infection, fracture, tumour or inflammation such as meningitis or arthritis. For the purposes of this blog, we will focus on the mechanical causes of neck pain.

Whilst there are many causes of mechanical neck pain, one of the most common is due to sustained or poor postures causing increased stress on the muscles, joints and discs. This type of injury is often related to certain occupations or activities such as office workers who sit at a computer all day, tradespeople who reach or look up for long periods, and prolonged postural activities such as knitting or gardening.

Poor sleeping positions or the use of an unsupportive pillow, as well as an acute injury such as overexerting the neck while lifting can also have an effect.

Stress can also be a contributing factor to neck pain. Tension that builds around the shoulders and neck can often cause pain around the neck.

Symptoms

Symptoms can present as a neck ache, sharp pain, stiffness or feeling of heaviness in the head. Sometimes there is referred pain, that is, pain originating in the neck that presents as pain down the arm, shoulder or back. Commonly this also presents as headaches.

Tingling, pins and needles, weakness or deep arm ache can sometimes be present and may be caused by nerve compression or inflammation.

Clicking or grinding may be felt or heard when turning your head. This is often what we call crepitus and can be caused by friction between bone and cartilage, tissues and bones moving over each other or gases releasing from the joints. Whilst the sound can be alarming, it is often harmless however should still be mentioned to your physiotherapist.

Treatment

Depending upon the cause of pain and the individual symptoms, treatment will vary. Physiotherapists utilise a range of methods including;

  •  ‘Hands-on’ or Manual therapies such as massage to address tight muscles, mobilisation techniques to improve joint mobility and reduce stiffness, dry needling or electrotherapy
  • Strength, endurance and stretching exercises to improve neck mobility, stability and strength
  • Postural and ergonomic correction and strategies to improve posture

Ideally treatment will consist of a range of modalities. Whilst symptomatic relief is important, it is also imperative to address the contributing factors of pain such as posture, strength, sleeping position and ergonomics. In doing so, will assist in preventing recurrence.

What to expect with physiotherapy

A physiotherapist will complete a thorough assessment of your neck, shoulders and back. This will include taking a history to determine the cause, contributing factors, previous history, symptoms and aggravating factors. Your physiotherapist will then assess your neck as well as look at any relevant scans or other test results you may have. This will allow us to provide a treatment plan to assist in your recovery. This may include physiotherapy treatment as suggested above, or referral to other specialists if we feel this is necessary.

At Seville Health, we take in o consideration your personal situation to determine which factors may be contributing to your neck pain. From here we can address these factors, and provide you with tips to settle your pain once and for all.

Our top 3 Physio tips for neck pain

  1. Ensure you have a supportive pillow. We spend a large proportion of our lives sleeping, which makes a good pillow a worthwhile investment. If you are unsure which pillow is best for your neck, speak to your physiotherapist. At Seville Health we stock a range of pillows – come and try one today
  2. Maintain mobility through your neck. One of our favourite exercises is to lie on your back with a heat pack behind your neck. Slowly turn your head left and right as far as comfortable. Use your hand on your cheek to increase the stretch.
  3. Watch your posture to avoid slouching. If working at a desk or computer, take regular breaks (every hour) by standing up or moving around for a few minutes. Whilst sitting, every now and then turn your head to look away from the screen.

For further tips on how to combat your neck pain contact our physiotherapists at Seville Health