Physiotherapists are highly skilled at supporting people with neck pain. When you see a physio for an initial consultation, we will provide a full assessment, treatment and advice.
There are a few different types of neck pain people can experience and a summary of these are provided below.
Mechanical neck pain
Mechanical neck pain is a type of neck pain which does not arise from a specific event or pathology. It can come on suddenly, for example, waking in the morning having ‘slept funny’ or more slowly over time. Mechanical neck pain can be described as both dull or sharp and can occur on certain movements. This pain may be experienced on one side, centrally in the middle or also radiate into the shoulder or head. If the pain develops slowly over time, it may be associated with sustained positions of any posture. An example of this is the sustained position of the head tilted forwards, referred to as ‘Text neck’, which can result in stiffness and associated pain. Most people recover well from mechanical neck pain, particularly once they start to regain movement. Manual hands on treatment can respond well to this treatment from a physiotherapist or sports massage therapist and specific exercises.
Cervicogenic headaches can be linked to neck pain in around 10-15% of headaches. People can experience stiffness and pain around the base of the neck that can spread into the head. Similar to mechanical neck pain, sustained postures can exacerbate these symptoms. An initial consultation can determine if these headaches can be treated by a physiotherapist through hands on treatment and exercises, or whether you may require a referral to your GP.
Nerve related neck pain
Nerve related neck pain is commonly seen by physiotherapists and 90% of these symptoms resolve with non-surgical management. This type of neck pain may occur with associated arm pain, pins and needles, shooting or burning sensations or numbness symptoms into the arm and/or hand. These symptoms can be very disruptive and concerning in the early stages but physiotherapy can provide clear advice and management to assist with settling the symptoms. Recovery would be expected over a 2-8 week period, however it can take longer. The physiotherapist will also be able to advise if and when you may require further investigations or management.
What treatment may I receive?
Treatment for neck pain from a physiotherapist or sports massage therapist may include hands-on treatment such as manual therapy, as well as suitable exercises and advice to relieve the pain, as well as tips on how to prevent further problems.
How can I help neck pain myself?
Exercise can help your neck pain and the right sort of exercise, as advised by a physiotherapist, may make a big difference. Lifestyle changes, such as being more active may also help. Other general tips include:
- Trying to take regular breaks from work that involves sustained positions. Consider taking a brisk 30 minute walk in your lunch break to move your joints.
- Shrug and lower your shoulders, or wave your arms up and down, away from your sides to help reduce neck tension.
- Practice relaxation if you are prone to stress, to reduce tension across your shoulders and neck