Neck pain, stiff necks and headaches are some of the most common reasons people visit our clinic.
Your head is similar to a heavy bowling ball balanced on a thin support called your vertebrae. Because your neck is so mobile and flexible, it is easily damaged. Injury may be to your muscles, joints, nerves, discs, ligaments or vertebrae.
Pain can be sharp, dull and throbbing or people may find that they have trouble turning their heads fully. Pain can be restricted to one area, or you may find you have pain shooting down your back and into your arms and legs, or feel numbness or tingling. You may suffer from dizziness, light sensitivity and nausea.
Our modern smartphone and computer lifestyle with many hours spent with our heads down or held at strange angles are strong contributors to the problem as they change our posture. Injuries and degenerative diseases also play a factor in the creation of neck and head pain.
Because of the wide range of potential causes of neck pain, it is important that you receive an accurate diagnosis of the cause of your pain to determine the most effective treatment option by your physiotherapist or doctor.
- Whiplash from car or sporting accidents
- Wry neck or torticollis
- Posture problems from use of technology, or sleeping position
- Disc degeneration or bulging discs
- Joint sprains
- Stress and eye strain
- Lifting incorrectly
If your injury or the mechanism of injury is severe, then consult your doctor immediately. However, you do not need a referral from a doctor to see a physiotherapist. If the pain is moderate, then you can seek treatment with your Physiotherapist immediately.
Like most acute injuries, the best first aid is to apply ice for 15-20 minutes every 2-3 hours, to minimise additional swelling and inflammation. A neck brace for the first few days is recommended for severe neck spasms arising from whiplash, but not for general neck pain as is can weaken your neck muscles. If in doubt, consult your doctor or physiotherapist.
See your physiotherapist within a few days of injury, as the earlier treatment is commenced, the faster and more effectively your body will heal.
Physiotherapy is a safe option to treating both chronic and acute neck and head pain. Treatment includes gentle joint mobilisation and massage to increase the range of movement of your neck, pain relieving and anti-inflammatory medication such as Ibuprofen and gentle exercises. Dry needling, ultrasound, heat packs and TENS may be used to reduce pain and promote healing.
If needed, you will be taught how to correct and improve your posture while sitting, walking and exercising. Your physiotherapist may also suggest some ergonomic changes to your workplace or your home, including assessment of whether you need a new pillow to help reduce pain and maintain correct posture when you sleep. Avoid sleeping on your stomach if you have neck pain.
Things to Remember
- Neck pain and headaches are extremely common.
- Poor posture, trauma and degenerative disease are the main causes.
- The sooner you seek treatment, the sooner you will begin to heal and regain movement.