Winter is upon us and with the cold we often see an influx of neck pain. But what causes neck pain?
Neck pain or stiff necks are very common among the population and often can feel incredibly debilitating as you try to get through your day to day living. Neck pain can present in multiple ways, ranging from sharp specific neck pain, to dull muscular aches, headaches and often the feeling of your neck being stiff and locked up and unable to move your head fully. Necks can be incredibly frustrating when they aren’t behaving like they should, but the good news is that in the majority of cases there is usually a simple fix!
Since there are many causes of neck pain it’s important to make sure you get an accurate diagnosis of your specific pain so that you get individualized treatment.
Let’s look at some of the most common causes of neck pain we see as physios.
Our body have an amazing ability to adapt and protect when it senses danger. The problem is that sometimes we go into protection mode when there isn’t actually any danger. Commonly we find that the joints on our cervical spine become stiff and locked up. This often leads to protective muscle spasm of some neck and shoulder muscles, while also causing weakness in others. So, you change your posture to compensate which in turn can put further strain on subsequent joints and muscles. The longer this situation goes on, the harder it becomes to reverse the habit. Around and around we go in this vicious cycle until you are left with a very sore stiff neck.
What we normally find is a combination of gentle joint mobilizing, massage and strengthening helps reverse some poor habits and gives you rapid neck pain relief.
One of the most common types of neck pain we see in the clinic is a conditioned called Wry neck. You’ll commonly wake up with a stiff and painful neck which seems to have come on suddenly overnight. This could be due to restless sleep, an uncomfortable pillow or even waking up suddenly because you hear a noise. A sudden movement in your sleep can cause the facet joints to get irritated, and lead to neck pain and stiffness which is often accompanied by spasm of the surrounding muscles. This leads to the inability to turn your neck through its full range of motion, which can be incredibly debilitating and often painful.
Luckily Wry neck treatment is normally very successful in just a short period of time! Once your Physio has assessed your neck and confirmed which facet joints are locked, we will make use of low risk joint treatment techniques and mobilizations, combined with soft tissue work to normalize your facet joint function and reduce that pesky muscle spasm. While your wry neck joint is almost always immediately unlocked, you are still likely to have some residual spasm and slight restriction in the end range of motion which can last up to one week before residing completely.
It’s important to then normalize your neck muscle and joint function through strength and mobility exercises as guided by your Physio to help prevent re-occurrence and keep your neck happy.
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Andrew Ilieff is a physiotherapy based in Double Bay, Sydney. Andrew has successfully treated musculoskeletal problems on the basis of a thorough assessment and diagnosis coupled with evidence-based rehabilitation programs tailored to the needs and goals of each individual. To book a consultation, click the link below.