Neck Pain

Neck pain and back pain

Neck pain and back pain account for around 70% of all conditions that we treat in our Physiotherapy clinic in Cannington.
There are so many reasons to get a pain in the neck that there are many hundreds of books written on the subject. This page is a simple overview with tips on how you could prevent it or help yourself in simple cases.
The neck is a fragile part of the body because it has 7 vertebrae that carry a head that is much bigger and heavier than the neck. It also has many joints (3 per level) to allow for a combination of stability (keep the head from falling forward or back) and control (being able to turn the head 180 degrees, tilt it from side to side as well as forward and back and the 100’s of combinations of the above). To be able to do this, there are dozens of muscles that word together as stabilisers and levers. Some of these muscles are very small and others long.
To allow for shock absorption and a large amount of movement, there is a disc between each of the vertebrae. The disc is a great bit of engineering that helps so much and a potential cause for being a pain in the neck.
I will list a few types of neck pain below and over the next few weeks, will create sub links so you can read more detail about each condition if you are interested.

Wry neck

Wry neck (locked neck), is often caused by sleeping on the stomach or flicking long hair, this is more common in teenage girls but can happen to anyone. The best way to avoid this is to sleep mostly on your sides and back with a good pillow (we custom fit pillows to avoid this condition, a pillow is like a good shoe, one size does not fit everyone!!)

Whip lash

Whip lash, this is a common condition during a car accident or sudden fall hitting the head or a fighting accident. Whip lash is the sudden jerking of the head back and forward. It is not a diagnosis but a mechanism of injury. Many structures can be injured at the same time which is why this is often a condition that could take time to fix, as we have to treat all the causes, not just one. Injuries from a whip lash could include torn ligaments or torn muscles, sprained joints, disc bulges from a tear, pinched nerves, broken vertebrae, bruised bones of the neck, inflammation of the neck joints, bleeding in the neck from blood vessel injuries and few less common injuries as well. Unless there is a fracture or a suspected fracture, holding the neck still or wearing a brace is not recommended as this will increase neck stiffness. Move the neck as much as you can in a pain free range.

Postural neck pain

Postural neck pain is the type of pain that just comes on by itself without an injury. It is also the most common type of pain in the neck. This is often from poor posture or incorrect working positions. It can also be caused from a weakness in the neck muscles or a muscle imbalance (some muscles being stronger or weaker than the others). The best way to treat this is with manual mobilisation, massage, neck stretches and fixing the posture. We have specific exercises to help improve your posture but if your pain is minimal, you might be able to try these things at home first. Pull the chin in and hold it in for a few seconds (not down or up, just straight back so you stay looking forward at the same spot). Also try rolling a towel into a log and lay on it on your back for 4-5 minutes each day. Only try these at home if it is a mild neck pain caused by posture. If either of stretches these increase your pain, stop straight away as this might not be the cause of your problem or you are not doing the stretches correctly. We have helped many people improve their postural neck pain and as a side effect helped them regain their normal height and avoid the (upper back hump that many people develop if they slouch for many years)

Arthritic neck pain

Arthritic neck pain is a common cause of neck pain in people over 40. This type of pain is often related to poor posture or incorrect use resulting in poor wear and tear of the neck joint. Arthritis simply translates from Latin as inflammation of the joint. So the treatment is dual, firstly it is good to relieve the symptoms by restoring correct movement, stretching the muscles that are tight and improving any reduced range of movement. The second part of the treatment is to work on improving the posture and strength of the neck muscles to reduce the incorrect wear and tear and prevent further deterioration and recurrence of the neck pain. Maintaining mobility of the neck is the most important part in this type of pain. Looking over each shoulder 4-5 times every hour (looking as far as possible without pain) as well as changing the work position regularly during the work day is also important.
For people with advance degeneration, regularly loosening the joints to get them moving is also important. Avoid self-cracking your neck, as when you do it yourself, you are only loosening the joint that is already the loosest and you will only feel better for a very short time as well as making that particular joint too mobile (hyper mobile).
If you have any type of pain in the neck and you want it fixed, we would love to help you.