Neck Pain

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.   

More Serious Causes Of Neck Pain

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 lack of co-ordination
  •  problems walking
  • loss of bladder or bowel control
  • a high temperature (fever)
  • unexplained weight loss

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.

What To Expect From Physiotherapy

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:­-

A Twisted Or Locked Neck

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.

Wear and Tear In The Neck

Sometimes neck pain is caused by ‘wear and tear’ that occurs to the bones and joints in your neck. This is a type of arthritis called cervical spondylosis.

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 Associated Disorder (WAD)

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.

Pinched/Compressed Nerve

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.

​​Tips To Help Prevent Neck Pain

  • Check your posture, ensuring that you are able to maintain an upright position
  • Gently strengthen your neck muscles, to help support your head
  • Take regular breaks from desk work, driving or any activity in which you have to hold your neck in one position
  • Avoid reading for lengthy periods in bed or using too many pillows
  • Ease tight muscles by shrugging  and lowering your shoulders
  • If you are prone to stress, practise relaxation to help reduce tension in your neck and shoulders
  • Keep your neck active and mobile in order to prevent stiffness
  • Ensure eyesight is checked in case reading is encouraging a stooped posture

Remember that early diagnosis and treatment is essential for making a complete and rapid recovery.  Do not hesitate to contact PhysioFunction on 0800 043 0327.