Neck Pain Causes, Treatments & Physiotherapy Techniques

Neck pain is a musculoskeletal disorder resulting in pain between the base of skull and the upper shoulder region. For some, neck pain may lead to related headaches caused by structural imbalances in the higher region of the neck. Issues in the lower region of your neck may trigger pain in the upper back and sometimes your shoulders and arms.

Neck Pain

Common Causes of Neck Pain

  • Sedentary lifestyles – people looking at a screen or down at a device all day.  We like to call this “occupational overuse syndrome”
  • Poor Posture
  • Wear and tear to the muscles of the neck – often prevalent in people over the age of 50
  • Pinched, twisted or compressed nerves – a symptom of a bulging disc, sporting injuries or even just sleeping in a position that puts added pressure on the neck

For all musculoskeletal neck related issues, our team at Southport Central Physio will offer an initial assessment to identify the causes of your neck pain and discuss the best treatment plan with you to help you overcome your neck pain.

Sedentary Lifestyles and Occupational Overuse Syndrome

These days, people are sitting at a desk for long periods of time, tilting their heads to balance their phone on their shoulder while they talk and type, and looking down at a smartphone device on their breaks or their commute to and from work. We associate this with sedentary lifestyles and ‘occupational overuse syndrome.’

The sedentary lifestyle can lead to discomfort and persistent pain in the neck resulting from damage to the nerves, muscles, tendons, soft tissue and joints.

For those experiencing a burning, tingling, dull or persistent pain in the neck, physiotherapy may help. A physiotherapy consultation will assess your posture and your range of movement, among other assessments, so we can determine the real cause behind your pain. We may also discuss the ergonomics of your workstation to see if this is a contributor to your neck pain.

Once we know the cause, our team may be able to support you with treatment methods including:

  • Stretching and mobilising exercises
  • Relaxation exercises
  • Ergonomic suggestions for your home and work environment
  • Ways to correct postural imbalances
  • Anti-inflammation treatment options
  • Massage and dry needling where relevant

Neck Pain Caused By Wear and Tear of Ageing

For the more mature – those over 50 years of age – neck pain may be the symptom of wear and tear in the neck linked to your bones, discs, muscles and joints. The medical term for this wear and tear related to ageing is Cervical spondylosis and cervical osteoarthritis.

Cervical osteoarthritis or cervical spondylosis is a condition where degeneration of the vertebrae, joints and discs in the cervical portion of your spine (refer to image below) cause inflammation, pain and reduced functionality.

The degeneration of your discs and cartilage can result in less padding between your vertebra causes them to rub against each other or cause a narrowing to the spinal column.

Often people with cervical osteoarthritis will report symptoms including:

  • Neck pain and stiffness
  • Headaches that feel linked to the neck
  • Limited movement in the neck with pain triggered when the head is turned to the left or the right
  • Crunch or grinding noise when the neck is being turned

Our team can provide treatment to musculoskeletal related neck pain from Cervical osteoarthritis and if further intervention is required, our team will refer you on to a specialist.

Torticollis or Twisted Necks

Torticollis is a very common cause of neck pain and it’s not generally associated with a previous neck injury or degenerative factor.

If you’ve ever woken up with a painfully stiff neck twisted to one side, you could have torticollis. Torticollis usually results in discomfort on one side of your neck or you may feel pain down the middle of your neck and in your head and shoulders. You may find it difficult to turn your head or straighten your neck and your neck muscles may spasm.

In babies, infant torticollis can occur due to the baby’s position in the womb or following on from a difficult childbirth.

The primary causes of torticollis include:

  • Abnormal bending or application of extension forces to the spine during sport
  • Sitting or sleeping in an awkward way
  • Poor posture
  • Sitting at a non-ergonomic workstation
  • Carrying bags with poorly distributed weight straining your neck
  • Abrupt movements while exercising

Physiotherapy treatment and stretching exercises for torticollis look to relax the neck muscles. Medication and specific physiotherapy related exercises may help. In most people, torticollis resolves itself within a few days or a few weeks.

Our Approach to Treatment Neck Pain

If you are experiencing neck pain for a prolonged period of time, support and treatment from our team may be what you need. We will do a thorough assessment to determine the real cause of your neck pain so that we can be targeted with our treatment methods with the goal to getting you pain-free.

If you’re not yet ready to see our physiotherapists and are experiencing pain in your neck, here are some strategies we recommend to alleviate some of that discomfort:

  • Do a posture check. How are you sitting when you’re at your desk? Are you slouched over. Try to catch yourself and straighten up, it will provide some relief to your neck pain.
  • Do a few soft stretches for your neck strengthen your neck muscles – lean to one side, hold for 15 seconds than move your head to the opposite side and repeat.
  • Try using one pillow at night time rather than 2 or three as these can extend your head forward which can put pressure on your neck.
  • Ease tight muscles by shrugging and lowering your shoulders.
  • Stress can affect us all. If you are prone to stress, relaxation techniques may help.

Remember that treating your symptoms early can really help with the length of your recovery.

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