Lifestyles are becoming more sedentary and people are often forced to commit to long commutes to work; electronic devices have fast become part of the modern world, thus neck pain is notably on the increase. Neck pain is a musculoskeletal disorder which can manifest itself in a number of ways. More often than not, neck pain is localised to the neck region itself, but it can be more widespread and travel into the shoulder and arms.
There might even be associated headache and/or a restriction in range of movement. It is rare that neck pain has a more serious cause.
Should we at PhysioFunction identify symptoms that we do not feel are of a musculoskeletal nature then recommendation for onward referral would be made. It is important to us that our patients are managed appropriately to get the best possible outcome.
Neck pain may have a more serious cause if it is persistent and getting progressively worse, or if there are additional symptoms, such as:
A serious cause is more likely if you have had a recent significant injury. For example, if you were involved in a car accident, or had a fall, or you have a history of cancer or conditions that weaken your immune system.
See your GP if you are concerned.
At PhysioFunction we would begin with an assessment initially in order to establish the extent of the problem and the likely diagnosis. Treatment would be based on the findings of the assessment.
Physiotherapy treatment can be in a number of forms; hands on treatment such as manual therapy and acupuncture; exercises in the form of a tailored exercise programme as well as advice on how to manage pain and prevent recurrence.
Some of the most common conditions that we treat are:-
Some people suddenly wake up one morning to find their neck twisted to one side and stuck in that position. This is known as acute torticollis and is caused by injury to the neck muscles.
The exact cause of acute torticollis is unknown, but it can be caused by poor posture, sleeping without adequate neck support, or carrying heavy unbalanced loads (for example, carrying a heavy bag with one arm).
Acute torticollis can take up to a week to get better, but it usually only lasts 24 to 48 hours. Should it persist then physiotherapy may be needed to help aleviate the symptoms.
Cervical spondylosis occurs naturally with age. It does not always cause symptoms, although in some people the bone changes can cause neck stiffness.
Nearby nerves can also be affected as they are compressed, resulting in pain that radiates down the arms. Pins and needles and numbness may also be present.
Most cases will improve with treatment in a few weeks.
Whiplash is a neck injury caused by a sudden, vigorous movement of the head forwards, backwards or sideways.
It often occurs after a sudden impact such as a road traffic accident. The tendons and ligaments of the neck become overstretched and damaged due to the forceful movement of the head.
As well as neck pain and stiffness, whiplash can cause tenderness in the neck muscles, reduced and painful neck movements, headaches and dizziness.
Neck pain caused by a compressed nerve is known as cervical radiculopathy. It is usually caused by one of the discs between the bones of the upper spine (vertebrae) bulging outwards on to a nearby nerve.
The condition is more common in older people because your spinal discs start to lose their water content as you get older, making them less flexible and more likely to become damaged.
The pain can sometimes be controlled with painkillers and by following simple advice from a physiotherapist, although surgery may be recommended for some people.
Most people do not really know why they have back pain and the likely cause of their symptoms. Back pain is often due to a build-up of different things. Examples might include working in awkward positions, sitting for prolonged periods or repeating tasks frequently without changing position regularly.
It is rarely due to any serious disease or damage. Back pain can be felt in the lower back area and it can spread into the buttocks. Pain can occasionally travel into your leg (sciatica). This type of pain is normally due to the sciatic nerve being irritated.
The lack of a clearly defined cause can make back pain sufferers feel very frustrated. Most people would like a specific diagnosis for their symptoms, but sometimes this is not possible. Physiotherapists are equipped with the necessary skills to help manage back pain and identify the likely cause.
Most people suffering from acute back pain recover within six weeks. Recovery can be enhanced if you keep active, remaining at work trying to do things as normally as possible; even though you may have to modify activities at first.
If symptoms do not start to improve within a week or so, you should consider contacting a physiotherapist or GP to begin treatment and rehabilitation.
Back pain affects a large number of people at some point in their lives and is rarely due to any serious disease or damage.
If you experience any of the following, you need to contact a doctor as soon as possible.
If you experience any of the following, you need to speak to your doctor as soon as possible.
Keep active…keep moving and begin to return to ‘your’ normal activity gradually.
It is a good idea to aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity a day, 5 days a week. That might sound like a lot, but ‘moderate’ activity can be anything that makes you slightly out of breath and increases your heart rate; like a brisk walk.
In most cases, back pain recovers in a few weeks but it is not uncommon for it to return. You can help things by trying to stay in control of your symptoms, try to follow treatment for Back Pain
Don't take back pain lying down!
The longer you are off work with back pain, the greater the risk of chronic pain and disability.
There are no specific exercises that help every person with back pain. However, some safe exercises have been produced to help keep you moving. Gradually returning to any sports or hobbies you may have is also a very important part of your rehabilitation.
You may have to start gradually and modify activities to begin with. It will take time to slowly return to full fitness.
Every lift has its own risks. Try and plan ahead before lifting anything. If you are in employment, discuss this with your employers. Lifting is not only related to work. You lift in many daily activities such as picking up your baby, shopping bags or gardening.
Sitting without regularly changing positions can also cause problems. Being aware of your sitting posture can help reduce back pain problems.
Avoid sitting for prolonged periods and get up to move regularly. Remember these simple rules apply whether you are sitting at work or at home.
MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) is a type of scan that is often used to diagnose health conditions that affect organs, tissue and bone. In most cases with back pain you will not require an MRI.
If you have pain from your back, which is travelling down your leg (sciatica) that is not improving within the expected time frame of normal treatment and rehabilitation then an MRI may be considered. This can be discussed with your physiotherapist or GP.
An X-ray is a painless way of producing pictures of inside the body using radiation. In most cases of back pain, X-rays are not necessary. An X-ray rarely helps diagnose the problem and can expose you to unnecessary radiation.
In the UK only around 1-2% of people with back pain ever require surgery.