Stiffness is a pain in the neck. Yep, we went there.
Pain and stiffness in the neck is a common and uncomfortable condition that you may have experienced at some point.
However, when it’s chronic (it doesn’t go away – or gets worse) it could be time to hand it over to the professionals. In this article, we discuss how physiotherapy can be effective if you’re dealing with chronic neck pain.
What is it?
Chronic neck pain is any long-term discomfort from the base of your skull down to your shoulders.
The chronic bit means that it’s not going away. Often, stiffness in the neck can disappear with a hot bath and some rest – chronic neck pain doesn’t go away. Sometimes it even gets worse.
When Neck Pain is a Serious Concern
Studies say that up to 70% of people will experience serious neck pain at some point and very few give it enough attention to completely resolve the problem (as many as 85% of cases last 1-5 years!).
While it’s not usually the case, it’s important to note that neck stiffness can also be a signal for a more serious medical condition such as meningitis or cancer, so it’s important to speak with your GP if you have any concerns. More often, however, neck pain is the result of a long-term postural problem that will occur again and again if left untreated.
Symptoms of Chronic Neck Pain
The obvious symptom is pain in your neck, however the below symptoms suggest you should consider checking in with a physio:
- Stiffness in the neck and difficulty rotating the head.
- Recurrent sharp or stabbing pain in one particular spot
- Soreness or tenderness in the general area – especially when pressure is applied
- Pain that radiates down into your shoulders, arms or fingers; or even upwards into the head
How Poor Posture Causes Neck Pain
If you’re working long hours – especially driving or at a desk, your posture is at-risk. These patterns of slouching and hunching forward place strain on the muscles of the neck and upper back.
This is even worse if you spend your free time on a tablet, smartphone or computer – more activities that cause you to round-over. Basically, the more time you spend slouching, the worse it is for your neck.
Muscles become tight when held in this position. In our practice, we see a large number of patients experiencing muscle spasms in the neck as a result of this ‘forward-head’ posture. This also weakens the supporting muscles that should be supporting the head and neck.
As these muscles get weaker, the risk of neck pain increases. This is a vicious cycle – which is why it’s important to treat neck pain and stiffness as soon as possible.
How Physiotherapy Can Help Control Neck Pain
Undoing poor patterns of behaviour and posture can make a world of difference to your wellbeing. Research shows that reducing tightness and strengthening the supporting muscles of the neck can reduce the risk of neck pain.
At The Brisbane Spine Clinic we find it’s usually a combination of manual therapy, muscle stretching, massage, strengthening exercises and postural techniques that are required to change established poor habits.
It’s not enough to fix the symptom: you need to address the cause and put your body in better movement patterns. Therefore, our treatment plans are centred around WHY you are experiencing neck pain in the first place. Our physiotherapists are experienced in diagnosis of mechanical neck pain and during your initial consultation a range of information will be analysed before any therapy begins. This is the difference between a short-term solution and a long-term method for managing your pain.
Although the majority of neck pain does stem from neck joints and muscles, it is important to note that we also consider other potential causes of your neck pain e.g. cancer and will refer you to another healthcare practitioner if we think it’s in your best interest.
Neck pain and stiffness are problems you can address now with the appropriate treatment.
To book a consultation, get in touch with us on 07 3841 3070.