Do you have a sore neck? Well, you are not alone! Neck pain is the fourth leading cause of disability (Wang et al 2016). Each year, 3 in 10 people will experience some form of neck pain and up to 70% of the population will experience neck pain at some point in their lives (Child et al 2008).
Neck pain can be caused by injuries such as muscle strains from sports, whiplash from accidents, or even sustained awkward postures through work. In this blog however, we will be focusing on Degenerative Neck Pain.
Degenerative neck pain is a broad term referring to neck pain related to the normal degenerative process our body experiences as we age. This involves a loss of space between your neck joints, dehydrated or worn discs and potentially ligamentous thickening.
As a result of these changes, the surrounding joints, nerves and muscles then takes increased pressure. Often, the body can adapt to the increased demands. Other times, this might just tip things over and irritate the surrounding structures, thus causing you to experience neck pain.
People with degenerative neck pain are typically in one (and often more) of these categories:
Speak to a GP if any of the following symptoms are present:
These are indications of a more serious problem that requires immediate medical attention.
Like with most musculoskeletal injuries, degenerative neck pain is mostly self-limiting and will resolve with time as the body adapts (up to 6 weeks).
Although degeneration itself cannot be reversed, we can maximise the mobility we have and strengthen the surrounding muscles to increase its capacity to tolerate more pressure around the area. This reduces the likelihood of neck pain in the future!
Of course, we know that it can be frustrating to live with the pain even with the knowledge that things will improve. Here are some suggestions to help manage this.
Identify any specific activities or movement that makes the pain worse, especially in the first few days and avoid doing too much of this. For example, if looking over the shoulder hurts, avoid this temporarily or modify this by turning your body instead. Once pain has decreased, start looking further round the shoulder again
This can be through heat treatment such as hot packs/showers, specific movements/activities that decreases symptoms. Painkillers such as Paracetamol and anti-inflammatories such as Ibuprofen, can be very helpful, especially in the early stages of pain. Speak to your pharmacist regarding this!
Exercises such as stretches or self-massage techniques can also be helpful. Here are some exercises you can try;
Neck release stretch
Sub-occipital muscle release stretch
Even with this knowledge, it can be difficult when you are experiencing pain to identify the aggravating movements or come up with a plan of action. This is where the guidance of a qualified physiotherapist can benefit you, especially if;
Here at ESP, we will perform a full history taking and complete assessment to ensure an accurate diagnosis. We will then come up with a treatment plan that is tailored to yourself. This will involve a combination of a bespoke exercise program; advice specific to your situation; and hands-on treatment (such as soft-tissue treatments, joint or neural mobilisations) to help relieve your symptoms. Once symptoms have improved, we will then look at ways to prevent this pain in the neck from coming back!
If this sounds good to you, then book yourself in for an appointment here! Alternatively, call us at 01324 227 370 and we will get you sorted!
Wang, H., Naghavi, M., Allen, C., Barber, R.M., Bhutta, Z.A., Carter, A., Casey, D.C., Charlson, F.J., Chen, A.Z., Coates, M.M. and Coggeshall, M., 2016. GBD 2015 Mortality and Causes of Death Collaborators. Global, regional, and national life expectancy, all-cause mortality, and cause-specific mortality for 249 causes of death, 1980-2015: a systematic analysis for the Global Burden of Disease Study 2015. Lancet, 388(10053), pp.1459-1544.
Childs, J.D., Cleland, J.A., Elliott, J.M., Teyhen, D.S., Wainner, R.S., Whitman, J.M., Sopky, B.J., Godges, J.J., Flynn, T.W., Delitto, A. and Dyriw, G.M., 2008. Neck pain: clinical practice guidelines linked to the International Classification of Functioning, Disability, and Health from the Orthopaedic Section of the American Physical Therapy Association. Journal of Orthopaedic & Sports Physical Therapy, 38(9), pp.A1-A34.