WHAT CAUSES NECK PAIN?
Your head is heavy and balanced on a narrow support made up of seven bones called vertebrae. The vertebrae are separated from each other by discs stabilized by joints and ligaments and moved by muscles. Because the neck is so mobile, it is easily damaged. Injury and postural problems are the most common cause of neck pain.
Diseases such as arthritis or degeneration of the discs can also cause pain.
Neck injuries most often result from motor vehicle accidents, sports or occupational accidents. Damage may occur to vertebrae, joints, nerves, discs, ligaments and muscles. A common neck injury is the acceleration/deceleration injury or ‘whiplash’ where the head is thrown forward or backward.
Bad posture can cause neck pain. Ligaments are over-stretched, muscles become tired and the neck joints and nerves are put under pressure.
Slouching your shoulders with your head pushed forward, sleeping with your head in an awkward position, or working with your head down for long periods, will all tend to cause or worsen neck pain.
PREVENTING NECK PAIN
Here is some useful advice to help you control and prevent neck pain:
Think tall: chest lifted, shoulders relaxed, chin tucked in and head level. Your neck should feel strong, straight and relaxed.
Avoid sleeping on your stomach. Make sure you have a good, supportive pillow. Your Physiotherapist can assess and advise you.
Recognise when you are tense. You may be hunching your shoulders or clenching your teeth without realizing it.
Avoid working with your head down or to one side for long periods. Frequently stretch and change position.
Keep your neck joints and muscles flexible and strong with the correct neck exercises. Your Physiotherapist will assess for tight or weak muscles and show you specific exercises to treat your situation.
HOW PHYSIOTHERAPY CAN HELP
Physiotherapists will be able to determine the source of your neck pain and treat it. They may use:
- Functional and Rehabilitative exercises
- Encouraging normal activity
- Postural assessment, correction and advice
- Relaxation therapy
- Laser, ultrasound, electrotherapy and heat treatment
After a full examination your Physiotherapist will discuss treatment options with you. Your Physiotherapist can also offer self help advice on ways to correct the cause of neck pain, such as practical ergonomic tips for work and in the home, adjusting furniture, relaxation and exercise.