According to research, 80% of people will have neck pain at some point in their lives. Most often, neck pain falls under the category of mechanical neck pain. People usually describe mechanical neck pain as aching and stiffness that may trigger sharp pain with some movements. Pain may be localised to the neck, but it can radiate into the shoulders or into the head.
Neck pain may come on and increase gradually over a few days, or it may occur immediately after an incident. This could be a significant incident like a sporting injury, having a fall from your bike or braking suddenly in your car. It could also occur after a relatively minor incident or an unfamiliar activity such as sleeping on a different pillow to usual, sitting for a long period of time with poor posture, or lifting an object in an awkward position.
The neck is a very strong part of the body but it is also very sensitive. If there is a strain or an irritation to one of the structures in the neck, it can lead to a significant amount of pain and stiffness which may be very distressing.
It is always recommended to see a health professional if you have an injury that you are unsure how to manage. A physio will perform a clinical examination to help rule out any serious conditions, assess your neck movement, and identify factors which are likely contributing to your neck pain. They will then work with you to help you understand what is going on, ease the pain, restore your movement, and work on strategies to help you manage the condition. This will help you to get back to your activities and will help to prevent further episodes of neck pain in the future.
With mechanical neck pain, it is important to keep your neck moving. Consistent, regular and gentle movement is the way to go. It is also helpful to break up long periods of sitting. This may involve simple head turning exercises to keep your neck moving, or starting good habits such as alternating between using a sitting and standing desk.
Recovery from mechanical neck pain can be variable but most people’s symptoms will start to improve within a few days.
Your physio will be able give you advice and work with you to implement strategies to help you restore your neck movement so that you can get you back to your normal activities as soon as possible.
If you are experiencing neck pain, book yourself in to see one of our physiotherapists who will be able to give you a diagnosis, treat the painful symptoms, and get you started on some simple exercises to speed up your recovery.