Neck Pain at Work

What is Neck Pain?

Neck pain is a very common work-relevant condition particularly in desk-based workers. In most cases neck pain is due to postural strain, or a gradual strain from repetitious movement and will often recover quickly without the need for treatment. 

Although symptoms are primarily felt in the neck region, other symptoms are often experienced and can include 

  • Mid and upper back pain 
  • Arm pain, 
  • Chest pain, 
  • Headaches, 
  • Dizziness, 
  • Jaw pain, and 
  • Pins and needles or numbness. 

Whilst neck pain at work is rarely due to anything serious, you should attend A&E urgently if you experience any of the following symptoms: 

  • Immediate severe pain following an incident / accident, 
  • Severe constant headaches, 
  • Loss of balance/co-ordination, 
  • Double vision, 
  • Persistent dizziness, 
  • Slurred speech, 
  • Difficulty swallowing food or drink, 
  • Loss of bladder or bowel control, or 
  • Numbness or pins and needles in BOTH arms and/or BOTH legs. 

What Causes Neck Pain?

Neck pain can occur following physical trauma (such as a road traffic collision or accident at work) or from possible work environment issues such as: 

  • Prolonged static or uncomfortable postures (e.g. due to poor workstation set up, in particular with DSE use) 
  • Repeated or excessive stress on the neck (e.g. due to poor manual handling techniques) 
  • Lack of rotation of tasks and thus lack of changes in body movement and postures. 

However, the likelihood of developing symptoms and the severity of experienced symptoms depends on a combination of factors including: 

  • Individual factors – being female, increasing age and pregnancy all increase the likelihood of developing pain. 
  • Physical wellbeing factors – smoking, obesity and poor general fitness or sleep all increase the likelihood of developing pain and the length of time it takes to recover. 
  • Psychological wellbeing factors – stress, depression and anxiety all increase the likelihood of developing pain and even increase the severity of pain and the length of time it takes to recover as does fear of movement, activity and work. 

How can I help myself?

The majority of neck pain cases can be self-managed or treated conservatively with physiotherapy treatment and advice, however, your attitude and the actions you take are the most important factors in preventing long-term problems. The most effective way to manage symptoms of neck pain are to 

  • Avoid prolonged static positions and keep active. Low impact exercise such as yoga, Pilates, walking or cycling can be a good starting point. Exercise is also key in preventing further episodes of neck pain. 
  • Talk to your GP or pharmacist about what pain relief may be right for you. If your pain is controlled, you will be able to maintain more movement or get a better nights sleep. 
  • Apply gentle heat to reduce muscle spasm and pain. 
  • Ensure you are following all manual handling techniques correctly at home and work – keep the load close to your waist, use your legs to lift, lower or push loads as these are the most powerful muscles in the body, and work within your capability. 
  • Report any symptoms you think may be work-related. Firstly, you may have a lawful duty to report your injury. Secondly, by informing your employers they are then able to make any necessary adjustments to your workplace or working practices, either temporarily for yourself on an individual basis, or permanently for the team to improve overall workplace wellbeing. Also, in reporting it to your line manager, they may be able to refer you for physiotherapy support at work or externally. 
  • If work can adapt your tasks and/ or hours, if needed, then try and keep at work and keep active. 

How can physiotherapy help?

At Physiotherapy Matters, our physiotherapists can conduct a thorough assessment to confirm a diagnosis and work with you to help you manage your symptoms and return to normal activity by:

  • Helping you understand your condition 
  • Helping identify the factors that may have contributed to your symptoms and provide advice on how to minimise these, including manual handling or safe DSE use
  • Developing symptom management strategies so you always feel in control 
  • Completing ergonomic workplace assessments to minimise any work-related risk
  • Providing an individualised exercise program to improve mobility and strength to address symptoms but also to prevent future episodes, including work-hardening 
  • Providing additional manual therapies that may help ease symptoms, such as: 
    • Taping to provide postural support 
    • Soft tissue massage to reduce any muscular tension in the surrounding muscles 
    • Mobilisation of the neck and upper back to reduce stiffness
    • Acupuncture to reduce pain 

Contact us today

No matter whether your condition was caused by a sport, work accident or otherwise, we welcome the chance to serve you.

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