Neck pain is a common medical condition that results in discomfort or soreness in the neck, which can range from mild to severe and can be acute (short-term) or chronic (long-term). The pain can be caused by a variety of factors, including poor posture, injury, muscle strain, or a herniated disc. Symptoms of neck pain can include stiffness, dull or sharp pain, and difficulty moving the head or neck.
Common symptoms of Neck Pain
Stiffness or soreness in the neck
A dull or sharp pain in the neck
Difficulty moving the head or neck
Headaches, especially at the base of the skull
Pain that radiates to the shoulders or arms
Muscle spasms or tightness in the neck and shoulders
Tingling or numbness in the arms or fingers
Reduced ability to turn or bend the neck
Swelling or tenderness in the neck
Causes of Neck Pain
There are many potential causes of neck pain, some of the most common include:
Muscular strain or sprain: Overuse or injury to the muscles and ligaments in the neck can lead to pain and stiffness.
Poor posture: Maintaining poor posture for extended periods, such as hunching over a computer or holding a phone between your shoulder and ear, can cause strain on the muscles and ligaments in the neck.
Herniated disc: A herniated disc in the neck can press on the nerves and cause pain, weakness, or numbness in the arm or hand.
Osteoarthritis: A degenerative condition that can cause pain and stiffness in the neck due to the wear and tear of the joints.
Rheumatoid arthritis: An autoimmune disorder that can cause inflammation and pain in the joints, including those in the neck.
Whiplash: A neck injury caused by a sudden jerking motion, often from a car accident.
Cervical spondylosis: Age-related changes in the spine that can cause stiffness and pain in the neck.
Pinched nerve: Compression of a nerve in the neck can cause pain, numbness, and weakness in the affected arm or hand.
Stress and tension: Stress and tension can cause muscle tension and pain in the neck.
How is Neck Pain assessed by a Physiotherapist?
A physiotherapist will typically use a combination of techniques to assess and diagnose neck pain, including:
Patient history: The physiotherapist will ask you questions about your symptoms, including how long you have had the pain, what makes it better or worse, and whether you have had a previous injury or condition that may be related to your current pain.
Physical examination: The physiotherapist will examine your neck and perform a range of tests to assess your range of motion, muscle strength, and reflexes. They will also assess your posture and look for any signs of inflammation or nerve compression.
Special tests: The physiotherapist might perform special tests to assess the pain source. Depending on the case, these can be tests for nerve compression, neck muscle strength and endurance, joint mobility, and more.
Imaging tests: Depending on the results of the physical examination, the physiotherapist may recommend imaging tests such as X-ray, MRI or CT scan to further evaluate the problem.
Treatment for Neck Pain
Treatment for neck pain typically involves a combination of techniques to alleviate pain and improve function. The specific treatment plan will depend on the underlying cause of the pain and may include:
Physical therapy: A physiotherapist can teach you exercises to help improve your range of motion, reduce inflammation, and strengthen the muscles of the neck. This can include exercises such as neck stretches, range of motion exercises, and strengthening exercises.
Manual therapy: A physiotherapist may use manual therapy techniques such as mobilization, manipulation, massage to reduce pain and improve mobility of the neck.
Medications: Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen may help reduce pain. In some cases, your doctor may prescribe stronger medications for more severe pain.
Heat or ice therapy: Applying heat or ice to the neck can help to reduce pain and inflammation.
Posture and ergonomics: A physiotherapist may teach you about proper posture and body mechanics to help reduce strain on the neck.
Stress management: Stress and tension can contribute to neck pain, practicing stress management techniques such as yoga, meditation, or deep breathing can help to reduce muscle tension and improve symptoms.
Interventional therapies: Depending on the diagnosis, some patients may benefit from an interventional procedure, such as nerve blocks, epidural injections, or other procedures to alleviate pain.
It is important to remember that the treatment plan will be unique for each individual and may change over time. Your physiotherapist will work with you to develop a plan that is tailored to your needs and goals.
Dangers if left untreated
If neck pain is left untreated, it can lead to a number of complications, including:
Chronic pain: Neck pain that is not treated can become chronic, lasting for weeks, months, or even years. This can have a significant impact on an individual’s quality of life and ability to perform daily activities.
Limited range of motion: Without treatment, neck pain can lead to stiffness and reduced range of motion, making it difficult to turn the head or look over the shoulder.
Muscle weakness: Chronic pain and limited range of motion can lead to muscle weakness and decreased function in the neck and shoulders.
Headaches: Unresolved neck pain can lead to chronic headaches, particularly tension headaches at the base of the skull.
Psychological distress: Chronic pain can lead to depression, anxiety, and other psychological distress, which can further exacerbate pain and disability.
Degenerative changes: When left untreated, certain conditions such as cervical spondylosis can lead to degenerative changes in the spine, that can cause more severe pain, and disability.
Please contact us to arrange your comprehensive neck consultation to help identify the exact cause of your neck pain and begin a course of corrective care today!
Book an appointment today
Discover why we’re the only health provider you need.