Neck pain may be caused by poor posture, arthritis or accidents. Whiplash is when the head is thrown violently forwards and back, as sometimes happens in car accidents.
Similarly to back pain, neck pain is common in people of all ages and is usually caused by sprain, strain and how we use our necks. As we spend more of our working day using computers or sat in an office environment our necks and shoulders can become overused and/or stiff. Neck pain is influenced by factors such as stress and tiredness. Continuous pain may be osteoarthritis in origin (age related changes as with the back), this may result in stiffness as well as muscular related pains in the neck and shoulders.
If a nerve in the neck is being irritated by another structure this can cause pain to go down the arm in to the hand with or with out pins and needles or numbness. These symptoms can be treated and resolved in the majority of cases by your health professional.
If you are experiencing arm weakness you should contact your doctor. Occasionally the nerves in the neck become trapped making it difficult to use your hands for tasks such as unscrewing jars, doing/undoing buttons or can make you lose your balance when walking, if this occurs again you should contact your doctor
Please refer to exercise video for neck range of movement as the first step is to try and ease your symptoms through movement. Movement is likely to be sore and this will be helped by the use of pain killers such as Ibuprofen and/or paracetamol (always read the box or ask your pharmacist for details on how to take them or possible interactions with other medication you may be taking). If your neck pain is worse when working please discuss this with your employer as you may require an assessment of your workstation which your employer will be able to organise.
If your neck pain does not improve please contact your GP.
Top tips to prevent neck pain
- Check your posture, so that you hold yourself comfortably upright
- Gently strengthen your neck muscles, to help support your head
- Take regular breaks from desk work, driving or any activity where your neck is held in one position
- Keep your neck active and mobile to prevent stiffness but avoid bending your neck back though
- Avoid reading for long in bed or using too many pillows
- Shrug and lower your shoulders to ease tight muscles
- Check your eyesight in case reading is making you stoop
- Practice relaxation if you are prone to stress, to reduce tension across your shoulders and neck