Are you suffering from pain in the neck?
Pain in the neck? Neck pain is one of the most common things I see in my clinics. Most people I treat have had pain in their neck at some stage in their lives and various symptoms.
The two main cases I see are:
- The one-off episode of pain (“woke up and couldn’t move my neck!”),
- People who has had problems over many years and just put up with stiffness, until it gets so bad or they start getting nerve related pain (arm pain, pins and needles or numbness).
- There is another sub-group who are those who don’t even know that they’re neck is stiff, I often find these patients if they come in with a problem in their shoulder.
(woke up with a stiff neck) person is quite often a quick fix; heat pads, gentle movement, manual treatment (getting the neck movements by a physio), and massage. This is normally painful for a few days and then if you keep it moving will tend to improve. In my experience hands on treatment is actually very effective for this problem and helps it resolve quicker.
Is a little trickier! I remember talking with a spinal surgeon who said that there was some evidence showing that neck pain is hereditary. This touched a nerve with me as I have always had problems with my neck even from my early twenties. I always put it down to my tall lanky posture, but my mom has a bad neck and my sister suffers from neck related migraines. So maybe there is some truth in it. I believe that the shapes of our spines are inherited.
So, our spines may be predetermined to be a problem just as your knee cap angles may predict that you may suffer with knee pain. But often it is a combination of many factors that will lead to the pain.
Chris, is an IT specialist he works from home 2 days a week and long hours at work in Peckham the rest of the week.
His work is spreadsheet based and involved intricate mouse work. He’s not aware that his neck is stiff, but suddenly he started to feel pain in his right shoulder blade and travelling down his arm. He also noticed some numbness into his index finger. Chris had also been cycling twice a week to work as a way of fitting exercise in. He used to be very active before he had kids and now he just tries to fit it in around his life!
Chris’ pain was quite severe that he couldn’t work when I first saw him. If you were to look at his MRI, this showed a small disc at C5 (at the nape). This disc was compressing onto a nerve which was giving him the numbness and arm pain. Chris’ MRI is quite common as the nape is where your neck does a lot of work especially if we start getting stiffer lower down in the mid back.
The Medical stuff
Normal changes due to age will cause greater stiffness of the joints in the neck. Alongside flattening of discs, osteophytes or lipping of the joints can get in the way of movement and press on to nerves.
Was it serious?
When Chris came to see me originally, he was in a lot of pain, his MRI showed compression. But the spinal surgeon was happy to give his symptoms a little more time to ease.
Generally, things will settle down if you do all the right things but if they don’t and your symptoms are worsening then it’s an option to look at a medical intervention (this could be injections to start and then surgery). With Chris a series of physiotherapy sessions focusing on getting his neck moving and working on posture, and time paid off, hence he improved. He did take pain relief which was prescribed which can also help dampen down the symptoms.