Common Problems: Neck Pain
What causes neck pain?
Your head is heavy and balanced on a narrow support made up of seven bones called vertebrae. The vertebrae are separated from each other by discs, stabilized by joints and ligaments and moved by muscles. Because the neck is so mobile, it is easily damaged. Injury and postural problems are the most common causes of neck pain. Diseases such as arthritis or degeneration of the discs can also cause pain.
Neck injuries most often result from motor vehicle, sports or occupational accidents. Damage may occur to vertebrae, joints, nerves, discs, ligaments and muscles. A common neck injury is the acceleration/deceleration injury or whiplash where the head is thrown forward or backward.
Bad posture can cause neck pain. Ligaments are over-stretched, muscles become tired and the neck joints and nerves are put under pressure.
Slouching your shoulders with your head pushed forward, sleeping with your head in an awkward position, or working with your head down for long periods, will all tend to cause worsen neck pain.
Think tall: chest lifted, shoulders relaxed, chin tucked in and head level. Your neck should feel strong, straight and relaxed.
A down pillow or a urethane pillow is best for most people. Avoid sleeping on your stomach. Your physiotherapist will assess and advise you.
Avoid working with your head down or to one side for long periods. Frequently stretch and change position. Your physiotherapist will show you how.
Injury and postural problems are the main causes of neck pain.
Keep your neck joints and muscles flexible and strong with the correct neck exercises. Your physiotherapist will assess for tight or weak muscles and show you specific exercises to treat your situation.
How physiotherapy can help
Physiotherapists will be able to determine the source of your neck pain and treat it. They may use:
Functional and Rehabilitative exercises
Encouraging normal activity
Postural assessment, correction and advice
Your physiotherapist can also offer you self-help advice on ways to correct the cause of neck pain, such as practical ergonomic tips for work and in the home, adjusting furniture, relaxation and exercise.
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