Have a stiff neck? It’s a common complaint our osteopaths see at the clinic and the causes can vary. The good news is osteopathy may help to relieve the discomfort and restore your neck mobility.
One in five Australians experience neck pain with the most common cause being muscle strain. Many of the structures in the neck can be implicated in your discomfort affecting your day-to-day activities, work-life and exercise performance. Here, we talk about neck pain, it’s common symptoms and offer some tips on what can be done to help improve your neck mobility and reduce your pain. You can also find a guide here with exercises you can do at home to help with neck pain.
What is neck pain and the common symptoms?
Simply put, neck pain occurs when structures in the neck, such as ligaments, muscles, tendons or discs, become grumpy. The presentation and severity of neck pain can vary. Some people may be able to grin and bear the discomfort whereas others will be out of action with intense pain. Some of the most common neck pain symptoms we see at Whole Body Health & Wellness include general stiffness, intense discomfort, a headache or pain that radiates into the black, shoulder and arm. In many cases, a combination of symptoms are experienced.
What are the common causes of neck pain?
According to the Australian Journal of General Practitioners, the most common cause of neck pain is muscle strain. At our clinic, we find the triggers for neck pain commonly include:
- Trauma such as a fall or car accident
- Overstretching or sudden jerking movements
- Holding the head or neck in an awkward position for a long period of time
- Sleeping with a pillow that doesn’t provide sufficient support for the head or neck
How osteopathy may help with your neck pain?
To help with your neck pain, your osteopath will first start by examining the movement, or lack thereof, in your neck as well as the upper back, shoulders and ribs. They will assess for pain and restriction in these regions before working with you on a management plan.
Treatment of neck pain may include hands-on therapy, as well as exercises aimed to normalise your movement patterns and strengthen the surrounding areas. As well as providing some symptom relief, your osteopath will work with you to determine the root cause of your neck pain and discuss solutions to help manage or prevent the discomfort from occurring in the future.
Depending on the presentation of your neck pain, your osteopath may refer you for further tests or scans or request to view previous scans that you may have already had.
How soon can you be pain-free?
With appropriate treatment and management, minor neck complaints often resolve within 4-6 weeks. This will of course depend on the causation and severity of your neck discomfort. The good news is that with treatment, you can expect some relief within 2-3 days.
There may be some residual weakness in the tissues around the neck region following this time period. If this is the case, they may require strengthening for a period of time once the pain has gone in order to achieve full resolution.
What you can do at home to help with your neck pain
There are a number of things you can do at home to help you overcome neck pain and relieve the discomfort so that you’re not having to walk around with a kink in your neck or grimacing in pain.
These can include:
- Don’t focus on your pain. Instead, focus on what you can do comfortably and slowly introduce more activities as you are able.
- Do not completely rest or lay in bed; you will feel worse and slow your recovery.
- Avoid static positions, such as sitting for long periods.
- Apply heat. This will increase the blood supply to the area, stimulating repair and reducing discomfort.
- Keep active, even if it means doing less than you would like to be able to. Gentle loving movement helps your body to function at its best, even when you are in pain.
- Follow your management plan. Your practitioner will provide you with clear guidance about how to support your recovery and maximise results.
Neck Pain Resources