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Neck Pain – A Physio's Insight

posted Jul 21, 2015, 7:45 PM by Rebecca Smith   [ updated Jul 21, 2015, 7:50 PM ]

Along with lower back pain, neck pain is a common reason as to why someone will visit their physiotherapist. Sometimes, it simply isn’t just neck pain rather it presents with another set of issues, including headaches (or even worse, migraines), dizziness, stiffness/tightness, difficulty sleeping, and pain referring down the arm. It can be felt either as a dull ache, a sharp stabbing pain or even a burning pain, particularly when it refers down the arm.  This can limit people in their day-to-day lives, with simple tasks such as using the phone or looking back to reverse the car being unbearable.

Most of the time, neck pain doesn’t begin with a specific event, rather it starts out of the blue.  However, there are times when neck pain is the result of a precise cause, the most well-known example being whiplash. Due to this, each case of neck pain must be managed differently, although similar principles are followed.

During the first appointment, your physio will investigate a number of factors related to your neck pain, which include:

  • Possible causes (e.g. recent increases in stress)
  • Range of motion

  • What movements/activities cause the symptoms

  • Neck posture when sitting (particularly if you sit at a desk all day)

  • Stability and strength of the neck muscles

After determining more information about your neck pain, your physio will provide you with various treatments based on what will help you the most. These treatments may include:

  • Advice about posture, stress management etc.

  • Massage (which can definitely help with stress management as well)

  • Mobilisations

  • Stretches

  • Exercises

  • Nerve glides

  • Postural Taping

While all treatments are helpful and effective, I have found in my clinical experience that it is exercises that help with the management of neck pain in the long term as well as preventing any future episodes. Most exercises are aimed at strengthening the deeper muscles of the neck, also known as the “postural muscles”. These muscles work to stabilise your neck rather than move it. How strengthening these muscles helps resolves neck pain can be thought of in the same way that strengthening the core muscles can help with lower back pain.

After your neck improves, your physio will continue to work with you to see whether there are any other factors that can be addressed to ensure that you are feeling 100% better and are not in any way limited by your symptoms. Although every case is different, I would like to share with you a couple of handy tips.

As for pillow set up goes, there is no one prescription but generally speaking, whichever way you sleep, your neck should be in a neutral position (i.e. not bending back, forwards or to the side). And finally, avoid neck braces and collars unless prescribed by your GP.

If you have neck pain or want to find out more about neck pain and what you can do to prevent it, book yourself an appointment with me or Arron our other physio.



Physiotherapist Narellan
Difference Physiotherapy Narellan & Camden