Often neck pain is caused by wear and tear of the joints which is the result of some form of injury or the result of postural problems. This is also often associated with muscle imbalance, with some muscles becoming tight and over-active whilst others become weak and long. Neck pain can also lead to Headaches if left untreated. A physiotherapy treatment for neck pain is one of the main ways to fix it.
What is causing my neck pain?
Your head is heavy and balanced on a narrow support made up of seven bones called vertebrae. The vertebrae are separated from each other by discs, stabilised by joints and ligaments and moved by muscles. Because the neck is so mobile, it is easily damaged. Injury and postural problems are the most common causes of neck pain. Diseases such as arthritis or degeneration of the discs can also cause pain.
Neck injuries most often result from motor vehicle accidents, sports or occupational accidents. Damage may occur to vertebrae, joints, nerves, discs, ligaments and muscles. A common neck injury is the acceleration/deceleration injury or ‘whiplash’ where the head is thrown forward or backward.
Bad posture can cause neck pain. Ligaments are over-stretched, muscles become tired and the neck joints and nerves are put under pressure. Slouching your shoulders with your head pushed forward, sleeping with your head in an awkward position, or working with your head down for long periods, will all tend to cause or worsen neck pain.
Tips for preventing neck pain
Posture: It is important that when you are spending long hours in front of the computer or doing something repetitive that you keep your shoulders relaxed, chin tucked in, head level and chest lifted. Think tall.
Sleeping: We advise that you generally avoid sleeping on your stomach as this can place a lot of strain on the ligaments, joints and muscles.
Relaxation: Take note of when you are feeling stressed. You may be slouching or tensing your shoulders without realising.
Work: Make sure your workstation is correctly set-up. Avoid spending prolonged hours in one position. Stretch regularly to loosen tight muscles.
Exercise: Muscle imbalance is a common problem for many people. Your physiotherapist can assess your posture, muscle strength and joint mobility, and prescribe specific exercises to help you keep your neck working efficiently.
How does physiotherapy help?
At Leading Edge we can identify the reasons for your neck pain and provide proven effective treatment for your recovery. Your treatment may involve:
- Soft tissue massage
- Joint mobilisation techniques
- Postural re-education
- Strengthening, stabilising and stretching exercises to help you manage your problems long-term
- Neural mobilisation techniques
- Advice and recommendations for ergonomics/desk setup and activity modification
I have neck pain, what do I do right now?
If you have just injured your neck, then the first thing to do is relax, and rest up. Try and find the most comfortable position to let any acute muscle spasm relax. Sometimes the application of heat or ice can help to reduce this muscle spasm, along with gentle stretches and simple analgesics such as paracetemol.