What is Neck Pain?
Neck pain is very common, affecting around two-thirds of all Australian adults at some point in their lives. This is no surprise, with our neck responsible for many things including holding up the weight of your head, which is on average 5kg! Read below to learn what could be causing your neck pain, tips to avoid neck pain in the future and when to seek medical help.
There are many things that cause neck pain and therefore it is not usually the sign of a more serious underlying health condition. Below is a list of common causes of neck pain.
- Poor posture
- Poor neck support while sleeping or watching TV
- Work activities
- Slipped disc – also called herniated or bulging disc
- Trauma – e.g. whiplash (a form of neck sprain caused when the neck is suddenly whipped backwards and then forwards)
Those with neck pain usually experience pain spreading from the neck towards the shoulders or upper back. The symptoms you experience will depend on what is causing your neck pain but may include:
- Pain in the neck, shoulders and/or upper chest
- Stiff neck
- Difficulty turning your head
- Muscle ache and spasms
When to Seek Medical Help
In most cases neck pain will go away in a few days. However, if your neck pain continues to persist or you develop other symptoms as listed below, visit your GP.
- The pain is getting worse
- You have numbness, tingling or pins and needles in your arms or legs
- You start having difficulties with your bladder or bowel
- You have a fever as well as neck pain
Managing Neck Pain
Treatment of neck pain depends on the cause and how severe it is. A team of health professionals will provide you with the most optimal plan. This team may include a physiotherapist, osteopath, massage therapist and/or chiropractor. For many people, neck pain treatment involves a combination of self-care measures, medicines, exercises and relaxation therapies, which can include:
- Specific exercises to strengthen neck muscles
- Posture training exercises
- Soft tissue massage
- Relaxation therapy
- Use heat/cold – heat (e.g. heat packs, heat rubs, warm shower, hot water bottle) and cold (e.g. ice packs, bag of frozen peas, cold gels)
- Neck support during sleep
- Medications, e.g. pain relievers
Participation in regular exercise and relaxation therapies, such as meditation, may help to prevent neck pain from occurring by reducing stress and tension in the neck muscles and improving muscle tone and posture.