What is neck pain and why am I experiencing it?
Our neck is responsible for supporting the weight of our head and is flexible to allow rotation, flexion, extension and lateral flexion to occur. Our neck is extremely vulnerable to conditions that cause pain and restrict motion. This means that there are a variety of reasons that could result in chronic neck pain such as:
- Muscle Strains – The most reported cause of chronic neck pain. Neck strains are commonly caused by the overuse of the neck muscles such as improper posture.
- Nerve Compression – Herniated disks or osteophytes in the vertebrae of your neck can press on the nerves branching out from the intervertebral foramen. In easier terms, when too much pressure, known as compression, is applied to a nerve by surrounding tissues, it can create pain.
- Traumatic Injuries – Have you been in a motor vehicle accident or had a recent sport injury? Both can result in whiplash which occurs when the head is jerked backward and then forward, straining the soft tissues of the neck.
What symptoms are caused by neck pain?
In addition to the neck pain you are experiencing, you may also experience additional symptoms such as:
- Decreased ability to move the head.
- Stiffness in your neck, shoulders, and upper back
- Numbness or tingling (pins and needles) feeling in your shoulders or arms.
When should I start seeking help for my neck pain?
If the pain your experiencing in your neck persists for longer than a week and over the counter medication is not helping, it is recommended by doctors to seek care. If you avoid neck pain, not only will it be more challenging to complete daily activities, but as well worsen the problem long term. Remember, if you don’t make time for your wellness, you will be forced to make time for your illness!
How do you treat neck pain?
Physiotherapy is one of the most common treatments for chronic neck pain! The first thing during physiotherapy is an assessment to see your individual discomfort and limitations. Then a treatment will be suggested to help with reducing pain and/or stiffness, once this has begun, we are able to educate and
potentially initiate an exercise program of strengthening and awareness for your neck to improve range of motion.
There are various treatments available when beginning Physiotherapy, such as applying ice packs, heat therapy, manual therapy, traction, ultrasound, and/or electrotherapy. In some cases, more aggressive forms of treatment may be appropriate such as intramuscular stimulation (IMS), or shockwave therapy.
What can I do to avoid neck pain?
There are multiple things you can incorporate in your day-to-day life to avoid neck pains!
- Good Posture is key – Scrolling through social media on your phone? Make sure not to slouch or strain your neck when doing so. Keep your shoulders aligned and your back straight when seated so you’re not straining your neck.
- Keep Active – The exercises you are doing to relieve neck pain, can also be used to prevent it! If you work a job that involves sitting for long periods, take occasional breaks to move around and stretch your entire body, including your neck muscles.
- Proactive prevention – Seek out a physiotherapist or kinesiologist to perform an assessment with exercise prescription to minimize your future injuries. While complete prevention of injuries is not possible, if one seeks out primary prevention therapy, when a future injury happens, the recovery process will be shortened.