Neck Pain. What is it?

Pain in the neck can stem from a variety of causes. This pain may be a result of any or all of the following: stress, prolonged uncomfortable postures, a rapid increase in load from training, having a fall, a car accident, sporting injuries or sometimes you may wake with a sore neck.

If structures in the neck become irritated and sensitive some common symptoms that are expected include a loss of range of motion, loss of strength, muscle spasms, muscle stiffness, pain, and at times headaches and or dizziness.

Neck pain

Should I get a scan?

In most cases of neck pain it is unnecessary to get a scan. Structural changes that may show up on a scan is not the sole cause of pain. There can be abnormal findings on a scan in patients who have no pain (Nakashima et al 2015). If you have been involved in a car accident or a fall then getting a scan would be considered. This can be discussed with your health professional.

How long does it take to get better?

Neck pain resolves at different rates varying from person to person. In most instances neck pain resolves within 6-12 weeks where the greatest reduction in symptoms is in the first couple of days to weeks.

How do I get better at the start?

First, seek a healthcare professional to get a medical check.

Remain as active as possible without aggravating your neck, change your posture often, avoid sitting for prolonged periods, and break up your regular household routines into smaller time periods.

Get adequate sleep at night aiming for 7-8 hours. There is no perfect sleeping posture, just sleep in the most comfortable position. It is also beneficial to manage stress as best you can, as this can be a contributor to an increase in pain levels.

Consult your physio within the first few days of pain to get advice, an individualised exercise program as well as some hands-on treatment that will provide some short-term relief.

The initial program will involve gentle movements and stretches that will help to reduce the sensitivity in the neck. Over time this will then progress to more strengthening-based exercises that will help strengthen the neck so it is less likely to become injured in the future.

How do I prevent it from happening in the future?

Managing the amount of total stress on the body as best you can by ensuring you are moving regularly and getting adequate sleep. If your neck pain stemmed from overtraining or an overload, consult with your physiotherapist to discuss load management strategies.

Ensuring that when you are sitting you change your posture regularly. If your work requires you to sit for long periods, aim to stand up and walk for a couple of minutes around every 30-60 minutes.

Following a strength-based training program 1-3 times per week, as well as regular physical activity, can build the robustness and resilience of the neck.