Normal neck movement & mobility is important to our daily activities
When you think about a normal day in your life, how often do you move your neck? You might not be aware of it, but your neck is constantly moving throughout the day, turning and flexing continuously. So, you can probably imagine how difficult it would be to do all these things when you have neck pain.
Neck pain is quite common and most of the time, it is not due to any serious injury to the spine, but rather originates from the soft tissues (muscles and ligaments) around the neck. Common neck injuries include muscle sprains and spasms, but sometimes can be secondary to degenerative changes. Strains are normally caused by overuse or sudden movement during sporting activities and exercise. Pain can be localised to a certain area on the neck or it may extend to the back and shoulders too.
Motor Vehicles Accidents are another common cause of neck injuries leading to pain and stiffness of the neck, where the neck is thrusted forward and backwards during the accident. This is sometimes referred as "whiplash" injury. Minor injuries may take a few days to a week or two to recover. More severe injury may last for weeks or even months. Early physiotherapy assessment and intervention are found to shorten the recovery time, reduce symptoms and an earlier return to normal daily activities.
Neck pain and other symptoms
Neck pain can be more than just "pain in the neck", it can be around the shoulder area (e.g. upper trapezius muscle) if the pain extends. Stiffness with restrictions of neck movements are also very common and people may find it difficult or even painful to turn the neck. Normal daily activities such as washing or combing hair, turning the neck to check on blind spot while driving, can become increasingly difficult and painful.
Furthermore, poor sleeping posture and incorrect pillows can also cause a wry neck, resulting in pain and stiffness. Other causes of neck pain are prolonged use of electronic devices, and a poor workstation set-up, as these affect posture and can cause chronic neck pain and discomfort.
How to relieve symptoms at home
It is important to find out what is triggering your neck pain and try to prevent it. Small things such as shortening your time spent with your laptop and smartphone use can make a huge difference. Other changes such as raising your smartphone, elevating your laptop or the use of a seperate keyboard can also optimise your posture, and thus, minimising your neck symptoms.
Pain and stiffness in the neck can be relieved by applying heat packs to the affected area. Rest more but also try gentle stretching exercise as instructed by your physiotherapist. Gentle self-massage can alleviate minor discomfort and help relieve stress and muscle tension. Most causes of neck pain may resolve and get better after a few days. However, if the pain is severe or persists, consider seeking a physiotherapist to get a proper assessment and treatment to relieve the pain.
Physiotherapy treatment for neck pain
Treatment will depend on the cause and severity of the symptoms. Management of neck pain include pain medication, posture correction , and physiotherapy.
It is important to maintain normal movements of the neck within pain tolerance and to adopt a normal neck posture as much as it is practicable.
Physiotherapists employ a holistic approach to manage neck pain. Treatment may include:
- Dry needling to relieve pain and reduce muscle and soft tissue tension
- Manual therapy / Joint mobilisation to improve range of motion and reduce pain
- Massage / Soft tissue mobilisation to reduce symptoms and promote recovery
- Relaxation therapy to ease psychological stress due to the symptoms
- Posture awareness, correction and exercise to promote recovery and prevent aggravation of symptoms
- Ergonomic assessment and advice to promote a comfortable and efficient working posture