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.
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.
What To Expect From Physiotherapy
They 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.
Neck Joints and Muscles
Commonly we find that neck joints (cervical spine) become stiff or locked much like a rusty hinge. This in turn usually causes protective muscle spasm of some neck and shoulder muscles and weakness of others. The longer this abnormal scenario exists, the harder it is to reverse the habit. Your neck posture alters, which strains adjacent joints and muscles, and the condition cyclically deteriorates. Ultimately you end up with a sore neck.
The interesting thing about necks is that one stiff neck joint or one weak or tight muscle can have a dramatic effect if not fixed quickly. We often see patients who have unsuccessfully tried various neck treatment techniques. What we normally find it that it is a combination of your neck joints, muscle stretching, massage, acupuncture/dry needling, neural tissue, strength exercise and postural techniques that are required to reverse some well established poor habits.
Neck pain is common but most cases aren’t caused by a serious problem. Most cases of neck pain get better on their own within a few weeks. Bed rest for more than a couple of days makes it harder to get going, so make sure you stay active. Gradually increase your normal activities and do regular exercise. Take painkillers if needed so you can stay active. Your pain should ease within 2 weeks and you should recover over approximately a 4–6 week period.
You should use the suggested exercises for at least 6–8 weeks to help prevent symptoms returning. If you have severe neck pain or weakness in your arms/hands, contact your doctor. It explains how the neck works, some of the causes of neck pain and outlines what can be done to help.