What is the 'neck'?
The neck, also called the cervical spine, is a well-engineered structure of bones, nerves, muscles, ligaments, and tendons that connects the head to the mid back or thoracic spine. The cervical spine is delicate, housing the spinal cord that sends messages from the brain to control all aspects of the body, while also remarkably strong and flexible, holding up the weight of the head and allowing the neck to move in all directions. Additionally, the neck helps to power the upper limbs as they are closely attached, and the thoracic spine holds the nerve roots for them.
Is Neck Pain common?
It is estimated that 50% of people will experience neck pain sometime during their lifetime. This statistic is growing as we as a general population are moving to a more sedentary lifestyle with an ever-growing percentage of jobs involving static postures such as sitting at desks.
Why is this happening?
In many cases neck pain is driven from other factors or other parts of the body. Neck pain can be related to a stiff mid back and therefore is trying to pick up the slack, a weak shoulder that is drawing strength away from the neck by using the muscles around the neck to help it, or poor postural control and awareness.
Do headaches come from the neck?
Cervicogenic headaches can mimic migraines, so it may be difficult to distinguish a cervicogenic headache from a migraine headache. The primary difference is that a migraine headache is rooted in the brain, and a cervicogenic headache is rooted in the cervical spine or base of the skull region.
Some headaches are caused by eyestrain, stress, tiredness, or trauma. However, cervicogenic headaches are different because they are caused by problems with the nerves, bones, or muscles in the neck. Although the individual may feel pain in their head, it doesn’t start there. Instead, the pain they feel is referred pain from another location in their body.
If the individual has a headache after a whiplash injury, experiences pain that seems to start in the neck and then spread to one side of the head or arm, or when they move their head they get a headache/feel more pain when they have a headache then there is a high chance they may suffer from cervicogenic headaches.
Does physio help?
Physiotherapy can play a vital role in assisting with neck pain. It can be very effective at relieving pain and assisting to restore normal function to the neck if it is being hindered. This is done through a thorough assessment of the neck and surrounding areas to determine the cause of the issue. Once the neck is feeling better, physiotherapists will look at how to prevent this from happening again which may involve strengthening the neck, mobilising the shoulder or retraining posture.
Physiotherapists are highly trained professionals who also know how to alleviate cervicogenic headache pain. This may involve soft tissue mobilisation and if the patient is appropriate, joint mobilisation. They will then prescribe exercises for the patient to do at home that can reduce, eliminate or prevent further cervicogenic headaches.
Common Symptoms related to the neck
- Stiff neck
- Sharp pain
- General soreness
- Radicular pain i.e. pain that radiates along a nerve from the neck into the shoulder and arm – intensity can vary but may feel like it is burning
- Problems with reflexes, sensation or strength in the arm
- Trouble with gripping or lifting objects
Common Symptoms related to cervicogenic headaches
- Pain on one side of the head or face
- Stiff neck
- Pain around the eyes
- Pain while coughing or sneezing
- A headache with certain neck postures of movement
Common conditions/injuries we treat
- Neck pain
- Facet joint pain
- Wry neck
- Neck sprain
- Text neck
- Muscle cramps
- Delayed onset muscle soreness
- Spinal stenosis
- Bulging disc/slipped disc/herniated disc
- Degenerative disc disease
- Cervical radiculopathy
- Neck arm pain
- Thoracic outlet syndrome
- Nerve pain
- Pinched nerve
- Cervicogenic dizziness
- Cervicogenic headache
- Tension headache
- Cluster headaches
- Ankylosing spondylitis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
How Physiotherapy can help
To gain a clear picture of your unique situation, we will consider all of the following:
- Medical History
- Review Scans/Investigations
- Neurological Examination
- Orthopaedic Assessment
- SFMA (Selective Functional Movement Assessment)
We use this information to diagnose your back pain and help create a personalised treatment plan and movement program.
- Hogg-Johnson, S, van der Velde, G, Carroll, L, Holm, L, Cassidy, J, Guzman, J, Côté, P, Haldeman, S, Ammendolia, C, Carragee, E, Hurwitz, E, Nordin, M & Peloso, P 2008, ‘The Burden and Determinants of Neck Pain in the General Population: Results of the Bone and Joint Decade 2000–2010 Task Force on Neck Pain and Its Associated Disorders’, Spine (Phila Pa 1976), vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 39-51.
- Illustration curtesy of https://www.injurymap.com/diagnoses/neck-pain