A pain in the neck

Posted by Karl McDonald on 19 May 2014

Neck pain is extremely common but thankfully in most cases it is not serious and a full recovery can be made.

Causes of neck pain

  1. Injury- such as a sporting injury or a motor vehicle accident
  2. Mechanical- extra and prolonged stress is put on neck muscles, joints or nerves, causing pain. This can be due to…
    -Poor posture-Poor working environment-Sleeping awkwardly-Worry and stress
  3. Degenerative changes
    This is “wear and tear” of the joints and discs in the neck and can be a result of previous trauma or just part of the normal ageing process. Notice how we get shorter as we age? This is because from around our mid 20’s our discs in the entire spine begin to dehydrate and lose height (Discs are the shock absorbers between each vertebrae in the spine). In some people this can cause pain, either due to the disc itself or the extra pressure put on the nerves and joints as a result of loss of disc height. Others (the lucky ones!) can go through life without any significant pain despite having degenerative changes.

Location and type of pain

The pain experienced can vary greatly in intensity and nature (burning, aching, stabbing, etc). Whilst you will generally feel pain locally in the neck, it may spread to the shoulder blades, into the head, to the shoulder and occasionally further down the arm.

Other possible symptoms include pins and needles and/ or numbness in the arm or hand. You might even notice weakness of muscles supplied by the nerve affected.

Management and prevention of neck pain

  • Keep your neck moving gently
  • Take pain relief (as guided by your GP or pharmacist)
  • Always be aware of your posture and positions you work in
  • Take regular breaks from prolonged activity and sustained positions
  • Ask for a work station assessment
  • Try to reduce your stress levels
  • Use heat to help reduce muscle tension
  • Sleep with a supportive pillow
  • Lead an active lifestyle

If you have a sustained period of neck pain that does not seem to be going away early intervention is best to prevent long term problems and ensure you are doing the right things to help manage your pain.

For help with exercises, posture, manual treatment for joints and muscles, and further advice and education, make an appointment with one of our highly experienced physiotherapist’s at Sportsmed Physiotherapy.