Neck pain can come in several forms.
Acute neck pain (less than 3 months)
Most of us have experienced a ‘crick in the neck’ or woken up with a painful neck at some point. Those usually go away on their own or a little faster with some manual treatment. There’s a little part of the joint similar to a ligament that sometimes gets stuck in the wrong position. When that happens it prevents the joints from gliding over each other, causing a pinching sensation and limited range of movement. Treatment for this is usually hands on soft tissue release, specific stretching and sometimes mobilisation to help restore the range of movement.
Other causes of acute neck pain include:
- Muscle strain
- Facet joint strain or irritation
- Injury such as whiplash
- Postural imbalance
Chronic neck pain (over 3 months)
Neck pain lasting more than 3 months is considered chronic. The acute causes can lead to chronic neck pain if they remain unresolved or poorly managed.
In chronic conditions there could be restrictions in the mid-back, muscular imbalances, and weakness of postural muscles in the neck. In these imbalances it can have longer term effects on not just pain, but functional changes. Forward head posture for example is associated with limitations in our breathing efficiency.
Treatment for chronic neck pain uses a mixed approach of hands on treatment, postural awareness and corrective exercise.
Many people have been told that they have ‘wear and tear’ or arthritis in the neck that’s causing their pain. That may be true, but improvements can often still be made by working on restrictions and muscle imbalances. We might not be able to undo some of the ‘wear and tear’ but we can make you stronger and more mobile. Improving other areas can support and take pressure off those painful points.