Common injuries we can treat at the neck
Postural (or ‘non-specific’) neck pain
This is very common where the neck is in pain through posture alone. Common postural faults
include the poked out chin posture as seen in high levels or desk bound computer use. Slumped
upper back postures can also contribute. These postures can aggravate the back of the neck joints
and cause muscular pain and tension as the muscles work harder to hold the weight of the head in
this forward position. Typically, pain is described as burning and aching pain across the shoulders,
and can radiate into the base of the skull and down in between the shoulder blades of the upper
back. Sustained postures aggravate the pain, while movement relieves the pain.
Physiotherapy treatment involves massage and mobilisation of the tight muscles and stiff irritated
joints to control the pain. Exercise therapy plays a crucial role to improve upper back mobility, neck
posture, muscular endurance of the deep muscles and stability.
This common complaint is very common not only in the desk bound worker, but also in cyclists and
Headaches are the most common complaint of mankind. There are many causes of headaches
and these should be carefully eliminated. One type is those that originate from the neck joints and
muscles. A cervical headache is typically constant and dull and comes on slowly. It can last from days
to weeks. It is often associated with a neck that feels tense or stiff.
Physiotherapy treatment involves correction of abnormalities of the joints, muscles and nerve
structures through massage, joint realignment and mobilisation. It is aimed usually at the higher
levels of the neck near the head. Muscle retraining and strengthening of the frontal deep neck
muscles is essential to restore a well supported, long neck and decrease the incidence of headaches
Cervical disc irritation with arm pain
This type of pain is characterised by high levels of arm pain and usually is very irritable and easily
stirred up. It can be accompanied by other nerve symptoms such as pins and needles, muscle
weakness and numbness. There may be an absence of neck pain altogether; however, neck
movements aggravate the arm pain. This nerve irritation results from a lack of room for the nerves
as they pass from the neck into the arm. Structures potentially causing this include the disc, or the
neck joints nearby affected by poor postures or osteoarthritis.
Physiotherapy treatment in the early stages is limited, however, gentle traction and opening of the
neck area can relieve the arm pain. Ice packs, heat and medication to settle the nerve is helpful.
When the pain is settling, restoring good neck and shoulder movement, muscular balance and
strength is imperative for a well supported and aligned neck.
These injuries are most commonly sustained in motor vehicle accidents when hit from behind or the
side. They are also common in sporting injuries when there is a sudden deceleration of the neck and
head such as with hitting the ground or opponent in a soccer or football tackle. The most common
symptoms described here are general neck pain, headaches and stiffness of the neck. Symptoms are
typically delayed and may increase over the first 48 hours following injury. All structures of the neck
are affected, from the muscles to joints and nerves.
Physiotherapy treatment in the very early stages is crucial to gently mobilise the neck. Education
about posture and simple range of movement exercises ensures a better outcome. Neck collars
and immobilising the neck is not recommended. As the early stages pass, treatment focuses on
returning to function and normal activity as soon as possible.