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The neck is a complex region of the body which is often susceptible to pain. The causes behind neck pain are diverse and vary from person to person. Sometimes you may just wake up with a sore neck, other times you have had some kind of traumatic injury, or it may be a longstanding issue related to work or hobbies.
More and more of us are working long hours at a desk, driving long distances or spending extended periods of time looking down at our phones, and these sustained postures can sometimes lead to neck pain.
The neck (cervical spine) is made up of seven vertebrae stacked on top of each other, with an intervertebral disc between all but the top two. Each vertebrae of the cervical spine is numbered in order starting at the top (base of the skull) with C1, followed by C2 and so on. The neck is supported by many ligaments and muscles, which act to protect and control the amount of movement through the neck joints. The spinal cord runs through the centre of the vertebrae, and nerves come out between each vertebrae. Your neck is able to move in a variety of directions- forward, backwards, side to side, and down to each side (ear to shoulder), as well as combinations of these.
Some potential neck conditions include muscular pain or injury, ligament injuries, disc injuries, joint injury or irritation, nerve injury or irritation and degenerative changes. Your physiotherapist will determine the likely cause of your neck pain based on the history, your symptoms, and the findings identified from a physical assessment of your neck.
Physiotherapy can help with reducing neck pain and improving movement. Your physiotherapist will assess your neck movement and head/ neck posture to determine what the cause of your neck pain is. Based on this assessment, they will determine the best way to treat your specific injury or issue. This may include hands on treatment such as massage or joint mobilisations, taking you through some exercises specific to your needs, or providing you with ways to treat and manage your neck pain at home.
How long your neck pain takes to resolve depends entirely on what is causing your pain. Some issues will be relatively quick to resolve and may only take 1-2 sessions, however some issues may take longer to resolve. Your physiotherapist will be able to give you a good idea on how long your neck may take to feel better, based on your specific circumstances.
In order to reduce the likelihood of your neck pain returning, it is important to maintain movement and strength of your neck. Your physiotherapist will provide you with exercises you can complete over a longer time period to maintain the improvements you see in physiotherapy, and help reduce the recurrence of neck pain or discomfort in the future.
Sometimes pain elsewhere in your body can be coming from the neck. The most common areas where the neck can refer pain to are the shoulders, arms, upper back and head. Some signs that your pain is coming from your neck are:
Some types of headaches can be directly attributed to the neck, and physiotherapy has been proven to improve symptoms in these cases. If you think your headaches may be caused by your neck, your physiotherapist may be able to help. They will be able to determine whether or not your neck is playing a role in your headaches and what the best method of treatment for you is.
If you are experiencing pain, stiffness, tightness or any other form of discomfort in your neck, book an appointment with one of our physiotherapists today!
The team at CSSM have developed years of experience with assessing and treating neck pain. Our assessment will be specific to you as an individual and what you hope to achieve out of treatment. Our treatments focus on achieving the best possible outcomes for you as quickly as possible, so you can get back to doing what you love pain free.
We will offer you different options for treatment and ongoing management to ensure you get the most out of your time, and will do our best to prevent your neck issues coming back. Whether this is the first time you have experienced neck pain, or this has been a reoccurring issue for you, book an appointment and we look forward to helping you.
Content for this page on neck pain was prepared by Camberwell Sports and Spinal Medicine Physiotherapist, Sally Lynch. Sally has a clinical interest in neck injury and rehabilitation, particularly injuries involving whiplash or high impact causes.
Find a reference list for this article here.
Neck pain can be very scary and it is easy to think the worst. It is highly unlikely that your neck pain is something serious, however there are some things to look out for. Some signs that your neck pain may be more serious are issues such as pain, numbness, weakness or pins and needles into both arms. Issues such as pins and needles, numbness, pain and weakness when only in one arm can indicate a more serious issue, but many mild neck cases will have these as well. If you are unsure, best to seek professional advice as soon as possible.
Your physiotherapist will be able to help you determine whether or not a scan is appropriate. If you present with more serious symptoms your physiotherapist may send you for a scan early, however, in most cases conservative management will be trialled first. If you respond well to physiotherapy treatment and your symptoms improve, you will be unlikely to require a scan. While scans can often provide peace of mind for people who are anxious about whether their condition is serious or not, for many people they can show findings which aren’t affecting your pain or function and are just incidental findings, which is often unhelpful.
Anti-inflammatories may be helpful to settle down some neck issues, particularly in cases where you also have symptoms into one of your arms. Reducing inflammation around your neck may reduce pressure on any involved nerves, and may therefore reduce arm symptoms which have resulted from the nerves being irritated.
As physiotherapists it is important to note that we are not experts in the prescription of medication, and any information given is advice that should be followed up with your GP if you have any further questions or concerns.
If you are able to complete the activities that are required of you with minimal issues, you should be fine to continue playing sport and going to work. If you are unable to complete the necessary activities due to pain or decreased movement it may be best to have an appointment before returning to your regular activities. Our physiotherapists are able to provide unfit for work/ sport certificates where appropriate if this is a requirement of your organisation and you are unable to complete these activities due to your neck pain.
Sleeping positions for people with neck pain vary widely. Depending on your specific issue you may find one position more comfortable than others. Generally speaking, if you are comfortable in a position it should be safe to sleep in that position. Your physiotherapist will be able to provide you with suggestions as to which positions may be more comfortable depending on your specific condition. If you do not seem to be able to get comfortable to sleep in any position, try altering your pillow. Varying the thickness, profile and shape of your pillows all may provide different options so you are able to find a more comfortable position.
To make an appointment for treatment of your neck you do not need a referral.
Appointments can be made with any of our team by calling the clinic directly – 03 9889 1078. Alternatively you can make an appointment 24/7 via our online portal at our website – www.cssm.com.au
Appointments are available 7 days per week.