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Neck Pain and Neck Stiffness

Hurting neck and shoulder

Neck Pain and Neck Stiffness

Neck pain is extremely common and affects primarily adults.  Nearly everyone will suffer from neck pain at some point in their lives and the impact of this pain should never be underestimated.

Causes of neck pain can be broken down into a few main categories:

Neck Injuries and Whiplash Disorders

The neck has a huge responsibility – it has to move and hold a very large heavy object – our heads!

When we have a full body trauma, such as a car accident, falling from a bike, our head can be jarred from the momentum and this jarring can injure our necks.

Symptoms of whiplash include

  • neck and shoulder pain
  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • radiating pains into the arms

If you have had a high velocity injury it is critical to see a professional and get yourself checked out.  The longer you delay treatment, the more likely you will suffer from chronic neck pain.

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Muscle problems

Some neck pain is simply muscular and muscular trigger points are causing your pain.  Tense muscles can become very tender and painful, and they can refer pain to the rest of your neck, your head, and your shoulder.  Neck muscle spasms can affect head movement, or make your neck feel ‘stuck’.  When this happens, it can be quite frightening.  Avoiding sudden movements is important to not get stuck in a cycle of muscle spasm

Postural problems

Sometimes neck pain can be caused by postural problems, such as sitting poorly at the desk, and can be exacerbated by cold chills or stress.  Poor positioning can put strain on muscles that causes trigger points – which are always made worse by cold air and cold temperatures.  A desk assessment should always be done if you are in pain, and spend more than 80% of your time at a desk.

Joint problems

Sometimes, sharp neck pain can be caused by problems between the inter vertebral joints.  When these joints become irritated, called zygapophysitis, they can become painful to compress (such as when arching your neck backward) as well as when you rotate your head or look toward the floor. You can sometimes feel as if you cannot move your neck!  Also the base of the neck is the first place to suffer from wear and tear so joint stiffness here is very common in people over 40.

Both muscular and joint related types of neck pain are very common. Both can also cause headaches.

Other causes

Occasionally neck pain can be caused by neurological compression, or ‘pinching a nerve’ and this is often accompanied by pain or funny sensations in the arm and hand.  It is very important to have this kind of pain fully assessed in order for the cause to be identified and treated.  Such pain can be caused by bone spurs (osteophytes), herniated intervertebral discs, or other problems.

Treatment for Neck Pain and Neck Stiffness

This is difficult to answer because there are so many different causes of neck pain and stiffness! Treatment takes into account the physical causes as well as your occupational and social risk factors.

Sometimes soft tissue treatments, mobilisations, positional release and trigger point work is all that is needed. With neurological compression, referral may be needed to determine the cause before it is safe to treat you.

Exercise and postural advice will be offered to help support you between treatments and when treatment is over.

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