Physiotherapy for neck pain
Neck pain is a common complaint in the modern world, often due a combination of factors such as prolonged static postures, sedentary lifestyles, and stress and tension. Normal age-related changes (often known as spondylosis in the neck), and certain specific conditions, for example, whiplash, can also contribute to symptoms.
Mechanical neck pain
This is the term that is used to describe when the neck pain is ‘non-specific’. This means there is no one single, structural problem, and no concerning or serious pathology. The pain will often be multi-factorial in nature but will likely be related to muscular and/or joint structures. Symptoms of mechanical neck pain are usually localised to the neck and upper trapezius, with no referral of pain into the arms or back.
In some cases, people can experience nerve pain which travels down the arm, sometimes to the hand. This can be combined with tingling sensations and numbness in the affected arm or hand. This condition is known as cervical radiculopathy, meaning there is some irritation to the nerves originating from the neck. In more significant cases, there may be some weakness in the arm and/or hand, as the nerves that supply those muscles are affected. This is usually not of concern and can be improved with physiotherapy, time, and nerve pain medications if needed.
How can physiotherapy help?
Mechanical neck pain, spondylosis (arthritis) and cervical radiculopathy, are usually managed conservatively, with activity modification, exercise management, manual therapy (soft tissue massage, joint mobilisations), education and advice. Further investigations (scans/x-rays) are rarely
required, as they often show normal findings which don’t correlate well with pain and are unlikely to change how the condition is managed. Some people may find relief from acupuncture if other management strategies have not been as effective.
As neck pain can be affected by many different factors, it is important that management of the condition covers these factors, and therefore should include more than one ‘treatment’. Seeing a physiotherapist can help you to identify factors that are contributing to the pain. Your physiotherapist will carry out an assessment and discuss the most appropriate management plan for you which they will then guide you through.
Seeing a physiotherapist will also help to highlight signs of more concerning or sinister pathology, in which case appropriate onward referral would be made. If you or your physiotherapist thinks you need stronger or more specific pain medications, it is best to see your GP or pharmacist about this.
If you have neck pain and are not sure what the best course of action is, get in touch to book an appointment with one of our physiotherapists by calling 0191 285 8701 or emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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