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Neck Physiotherapy

The neck is a complex structure which allows movement of the head, and provides it stability and a connection to the rest of the body. As the link between our head and the rest of the body, our neck is an epicentre of nerve pathways and blood vessels, and is largely made up of of dense muscles, soft tissue and the cervical vertebrae.

A sore or stiff neck can be the underlying reason for pain across all areas of the body. If you are suffering from neck and shoulder soreness, pins and needles radiating down your arms, or have been hurt by whiplash, Pivotal Motion Physiotherapy can help!

Due to its important role and the large range of movements, the neck is an area of the body that is relatively common and easy to injure, with body wide repercussions possible from injury.

How can neck physio aid in your recovery?

Neck physiotherapy is important as our qualified and experienced staff will be able to correctly identify the source of your pain, discomfort or limited mobility. Our north Brisbane physiotherapists, based at Newmarket can help diagnose and treat your neck pain to aide you on the path to recovery and can give you specialised treatment to help reduce pain and increase freedom of movement. To contact our specialised staff today you can call us on 07 3352 5116.

Primary Function of the Neck

The main function of the neck is twofold; it allows for movement of the head, letting us engage with our surrounding environments, and it also protects key components of the nervous system and blood vessels for our brain and face. In connecting the head to the body, the neck is a key element in our body’s movement, ultimately allowing us to lead an active lifestyle.

Neck Anatomy, Injuries & Symptoms

The neck is a highly complex and important part of our anatomy. As it provides the link between our brain and body, there are a large number of neural pathways and blood vessels which travel through it. Serious injury can occur if there is excessive pressure placed on these structures, such as in a slipped disc or twisted vertebrae. Our physios at Pivotal Motion Physiotherapy are experienced at helping to treat neck pain and injuries.

The cervical vertebrae are specially designed to enable the large ranges of movement required by the neck. The first two vertebrae, C1 and C2, or the atlas and axis, allow the skull to twist on the spine, and some slight nodding movement. The following vertebrae, C3-7 allow flexion and extension of the neck, letting you look down or up. The movements of the neck are enacted by a large array of dense muscles, which help to stabilise the head and upper vertebrae as well.

Due to its variety of uses, the neck can often become a stress-point, resulting in headaches, muscle soreness and stiffness, or a limitation of movement. The neck muscles are constantly engaged as they hold the weight of the head, which can often result in an over-extension of the muscle. The twinge in your neck when you rotate your head in a certain way is a prime example of an overworked or overextended neck muscle.

Often neck pain can come with stiffness and muscle spasm. Sometimes, the pain can radiate to the shoulder, between the shoulder blades, arm or hand. Other symptoms associated with neck pain are numbness and tingling in the arm and hand if the nerves are involved.

Pain arising from structures in the cervical spine can be interpreted as being headaches due to convergence of nerve messages within our sensory cortex; in other words a problem within the neck might give the sufferer a headache. They are usually a dull aching type of headache. Dizziness can also accompany neck pain.

Neck pain can also be a cause of spinal difficulties, such as a muscle or skeletal misalignment, injuries which occur through the likes of whiplash or having poor posture. More serious neck injuries such as bulging discs or pinched nerves can also severely limit movement if not properly treated. Symptoms could include numbness, tingling sensations, decreased range of motion, in-coordination and weakness.

If you do suffer neck pain, it is alright, you are not alone. Also known as cervicalgia or cervical pain, neck injuries are a common problem, with two-thirds of the population have neck pain at some point in their lives. Neck pain can be acute (lasting for 6 weeks or less) or chronic (lasting for 3 months or longer).

The more common causes of neck pain include:

  • Stress and some mental health issues.
  • Prolonged poor postures; incorrect postures; sustained postures (eg. using a computer or falling asleep in an awkward position, even holding a child can cause strain!).
  • Muscular strains or spasm and over use or underuse (deconditioning).
  • Minor injuries and falls.
  • Motor vehicle accidents.
  • Whiplash (more info in additional information link).
  • Pinched nerves.
  • Herniated discs.
  • Wry Neck

Degenerative changes can also contribute to neck pain and this may cause more ongoing pain. These include:

  • spondylosis – arthritis and osteophytes (development of boney spurs on the articular surface).
  • spinal stenosis – a narrowing of the spinal canal.

Usually, everyday activities are to blame for neck pain. However, for most people, no specific reason for the pain can be found.

Regardless of how the neck may come to be injured or sore, if not treated properly and in a timely manner, the pain could spread due to the pressure on the upper spinal nervous system.

Can a physiotherapist assist with neck pain?

Neck pain can be successfully treated with physiotherapy. Exercise in comjuction with joint mobilisation has been found to be beneficial in both acute and chronic mechanical neck disorders.

You don’t need a doctor’s referral to see a physiotherapist for your neck pain. The physiotherapists at Pivotal Motion will carry out a thorough assessment which will then determine the best treatments options for you.

Treatment may include:

  • Soft tissue massage.
  • Mobilisation to stretch tight muscles and other soft tissue structures.
  • Mobilisation or manipulation of the joints.
  • Specific exercise programs inclusive of deep neck flexor (DNF) exercises.
  • Relaxation therapy.
  • Information on correct posture.

Meanwhile, there are a few things you can do to help your neck pain before your 1st physiotherapy appointment:

  • Stay as active as possible and keep the neck moving, excess rest can lead to prolonged neck pain.
  • Use a heat pack to relax the muscles.
  • Take pain medication if you are able to (you may need to consult your GP before taking pain medication).

It is not possible for a physiotherapist to confidently predict what will happen in the long term.

However, in general, acute neck pain does improve with time, and total recovery is also possible. Pivotal Motion Physiotherapy can help you with your neck pain.

Do I need an X-Ray or Scan?

X-Rays may be necessary in the acute traumatic setting in order to exclude entities such as fractures. It can be difficult to identify the precise source of neck pain even after investigations. Generally, X-ray abnormalities do not correlate well with pain. Some people have severe degenerative changes on X-Rays, but have no pain.

More often than not they provide little relevant information, unless neurological symptoms are present and the pain is involving pressure on the nerve roots or spinal cord.

Injury Avoidance & Recovery of Neck Pain

Due to its uses, a neck injury can limit day-to-day living. Thankfully, there are a few things that can help limit the chance of an injury, as well as assist in the recovery stage.

Avoiding situations which require you to fit into awkward spaces, or require you to strain you neck (eg: jobs that require you to look up for long periods of time) can help limit neck injuries. Similarly, addressing postural issues can also assist in limiting neck injuries by evening out muscle strains along the entirety of the body.

The application of a heating pack is often recommended for a sore or stiff neck, as the heating pack increases blood flow to the affected area, helping the muscle to recover quicker. Similarly, ice can be recommended if any soft tissue has been damaged. Combining with other remedies such as light stretching, massage and physiotherapy treatments, non-serious neck injuries can be quickly resolved. More serious neck injuries will require medical examinations and rest.

North Brisbane Neck Physiotherapy

Based at Newmarket, North Brisbane, our qualified staff can aide you on the path of recovery after the correct diagnosis. Speak with one of our qualified staff to book an appointment today to start your journey towards recovery. Call us on 07 3352 5116.