Neck pain is a very common condition, especially for office workers who spend hours seated and looking at a computer monitor. It can range from mild discomfort and aches, to severe pain and movement limitation. Sometimes it might make it hard to turn your head, or can lead to headaches and migraines.
The good news is that you don’t have to put up with neck pain – an Exercise Physiologist has the skills and knowledge to help.
What is NECK pain?
Neck pain can have various qualities and present in different parts of the neck. It can be sharp, dull, or achy. It can cause limited range of motion, resulting in difficulty performing simple daily tasks, such as checking your blind sport whilst driving. It has a range of possible causes, and can occur at any age.
The pain may be localised – or it may radiate up into the head or down into the shoulders and arms. It may be sudden in its onset, or creep in steadily over time. It can last a period of several hours or days, or can become persistent and last for weeks and months.
How your NECK works
The neck, or cervical spine makes up part of your axial skeleton, and connects your cranium (head) to your thorax (body). Although it has a deceptively simple job, the neck is actually a complicated structure. It contains our spinal cord, which is essential for our brain to communicate via to move the muscles in our body. The cervical spine must protect the spinal cord, as well as support our head and maintain enough flexibility for movement to ensure our day to day survival.
Our neck consists of eight paired cervical nerves which emerge from the spinal cord through the seven cervical vertebrae and over 20 muscles.
Our neck works hard to support our head with our neck muscles in active use all day. They must be able to move our head from front to back and rotate side to side, as well as tilting our head left to right. It is essential that the strength of these muscles is maintained so that we can maintain healthy function, posture and motion.
TYPES AND CAUSES OF NECK PAIN
Muscle pain. This tends to be an achy pain that is related to muscles in the neck. The pain worsens with certain positions, movements or postures and it may leave your neck feeling a bit tight or stiff. This is a type of pain that many office workers or students may experience after many hours of sitting at a desk with deterioriating posture.
Muscle spasm – or ‘stiff neck’. This is a type of neck pain that many of us have unfortunately experienced after a poor night’s sleep or a sudden spasm when we turn our head quickly. The neck muscles feel tight and stiff, and can often be very painful. Such an event often seems to have no identifiable cause (otherwise known as idiopathic) and can last for hours, days or if not addressed properly, months.
Nerve pain. Sometimes the nerves in the neck may become pinched or irritated – this is called ‘cervical radiculopathy’. This can cause both local and referred weakness, numbness and pain.
Injury. The neck can become injured through no fault of your own, for example through a whiplash injury or injury at work. Such acute injuries can lead to further problems such as a herniated disk. These injuries can cause ongoing pain and often require tailored rehabilitation, depending on the location and extent of the injury. We often assist WorkCover QLD and Third Party Insurance patients with such injuries.
Headache. Tense or painful muscles in the neck may lead to headaches, which can be felt at the back of the head where the head joins the neck. Often patients mention that tension in the neck and shoulders is associated with their migraines.
NECK PAIN treatment at Restart Exercise Physiology
Movement, posture and strength are all essential to keep the neck healthy, strong and pain-free. Many people spend hours hunched over a desk or phone, or they are lifting heavy items with poor posture. Often they can lose strength and stability through inactivity and a lack of physical activity. An Exercise Physiologist can help plan and implement an exercise program that is suitable for your symptoms, activities of daily living, and lifestyle goals.
As Exercise Physiologists we understand the complex anatomy of the neck. We will carefully analyse your movement and discuss your diagnosis and symptoms in order to develop the best range of exercises. These will aim to decrease your symptoms whilst increasing mobility and strength.
“I was referred to Luke by my GP to help with debilitating pain radiating from my damaged neck vertebrae and associated loss of mobility. From the outset, I was very impressed with Luke’s approach, thorough assessment skills, and evident experience. By appointment #2 Luke had examined my medical records, liaised with my GP and designed a specific batch of exercises to start the rehabilitation process. Each session he gave me homework to do daily between sessions. Subsequent appointments each built on the previous one with the goal of improving core and spine strengthening and further neck mobility.
I had eight sessions with Luke, which have changed my life! I hold him in high regard and give my personal recommendations for his and Restart’s services.”
We understand that neck pain can be debilitating – a series of personalised, guided exercises can help break your injury cycle and get you back on track towards your work, family, fitness and lifestyle goals.