Neck pain is one of the most common presentations that physiotherapists see, which is no surprise considering that it is reported in 20% of adults in Australia and is a leading cause of disability. The reality is that almost all of us will experience neck pain at some point in our lives. It’s important to know what is causing this issue and how to treat it effectively. So here are some insights from our spinal physiotherapy team.
Categorising Neck Pain
Neck pain can be debilitating, preventing us from completing everyday tasks like driving, shopping, sleeping, playing our favourite sports and working. Neck pain can have a sudden onset (acute) or be a long-term issue (chronic). Whether acute or chronic, neck pain is no fun to deal with. The good news is that neck pain and its causes can be managed by your physiotherapist.
Neck pain can be categorised according to the structures of the neck that are affected. These structures include:
- Bones – The bones of the neck are called the vertebra and make up the cervical spine. These vertebra are numbered C1 to C7 from the top to bottom of the neck.
- Joints – Between each of the bones of the neck (vertebra) there are joints. There are multiple joints between each level of the neck.
- Discs – Discs are fluid-filled structures that sit between the levels of the neck. These discs contribute to the mobility and stability of the neck. Discs also play a role in absorbing bumps and impacts.
- Muscles – The muscles of your neck provide for movement of the neck and head. They also support posture, and provide additional protection to the neck against impacts.
- Nerves – Nerves are the communication pathways to and from the brain. Many nerves pass through the neck carrying information to the brain, and messages from the brain to other parts of the body.
- Ligaments – These are strong bands of tissue that support your spine and head. The ligaments support the bones, joints and muscles of the neck to provide stability for the neck.
What Causes Neck Pain?
There are many different underlying causes for neck pain. One of the first steps in treating neck pain is to determine what has caused the onset of your symptoms. Common causes can include:
- Whiplash – A sudden jerking motion of the neck forwards, backwards or sideways can cause damage to the ligaments, muscles, and nerves in the neck. Although often associated with vehicle accidents, you can suffer whiplash following a fall, or a tackle in sport. Symptoms can occur right after the injury and occasionally weeks and months following trauma.
- Muscle spasms – Repetitive neck movements, a sudden neck movement, or holding your neck in one position for too long can trigger a painful muscle spasm, resulting in tight, stiff muscles.
- Pinched nerve – Nerve irritation or compression can occur when pressure is applied to a nerve of the neck. Nerve compression can be associated with changes to the disc, joint or nearby tissue. Nerve pain is often described as sharp, electric pain and can also cause pain and changes in sensation of the arms, hands and fingers.
- Spondylosis – This is the term used to describe deterioration of the joints. Spondylosis can cause stiffness and pain in the neck, and is common finding in people who have been involved in work and sports involving repetitive loading.
How Physiotherapy Can Treat Neck Pain
Spinal physiotherapy focusses on neck and back pain, helping not only to determine the cause of existing pain and treat it effectively, but also teaching you how to prevent neck pain from reoccurring.
Depending on the cause of your neck pain, your physiotherapist may recommend:
- Modification to your posture and workplace ergonomics, especially if you spend a lot of time working in a stationary position at a computer or desk.
- Exercises to strengthen neck muscles to ensure your head and spine is getting proper support.
- Massage and hands on treatment to release spasms, muscle tension and pain.
- Techniques for managing stress and anxiety.
Effective Spinal Physiotherapy from Your Local Physio in Richmond
If your neck pain is holding you back from a good night’s rest, participating in your favourite sports, causing you headaches or preventing you from working and living a full life, visit us at our new clinic in Richmond for effective, targeted care. Our welcoming clinic has treated patients successfully for their neck pain through evidence-based spinal physio and compassionate care. Contact us or book an appointment online today.