Neck pain is on the rise and becoming one of the most common presentations that an osteopath encounters. There are many postural, ergonomic and lifestyle factors contributing to this growing problem. Your osteopath will consider the physical and non-physical causes to provide neck pain treatment and management of the total problem.
Causes of Neck Pain
There are many causes of neck pain varying across children, adults, and elderly populations. There are many probable causes such as vertebral dysfunction and traumatic strains, and more rare causes of a serious origin that are not to be missed.
- Joint dysfunction and or degenerative changes (spondylosis)
- Muscle or ligament strain
- Trauma (whiplash, repetitive strain, fracture)
- Inflammation (osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, ankylosis spondylitis, thyroiditis)
- Infective (meningitis, osteomyelitis)
- Stress and occupational factors
Symptoms of Neck Pain
At any time approximately 10% of the adult population are experiencing an episode of neck pain. In most cases the origin of neck pain is from the neck itself coming from the joints, skeletal, muscular, and connective tissues. Symptoms can vary however often a muscular spasm is present which represents the bodies protective mechanism and response to underlying dysfunction. The underlying cause is often postural, caused by muscles tightening in response to micro trauma to underlying structures in the joints and tissues as a result of repetitive strain.
Mostly neck pain presents at the back of the neck but this can also be observed on the sides or in the front. When pain is prolonged and severe you neck can become completely ‘locked up’ presenting with symptoms of immobility making it painful to move or turn your head and neck. This is traditionally called a ‘wry neck’.
Other presentations of neck pain may be related to arthritic changes to the joints, auto-immune diseases, damage to inter-vertebral discs, nerve impingement, and other pathological processes such as fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome.
Often a headache can be related to and caused by neck pain.
Neck Pain Treatment and Management
Your osteopath can perform an examination to properly diagnose your neck pain and associated underlying neck dysfunction and plan your neck pain treatment. This may involve:
- Osteopathic treatment, if safe, of structures in the head and neck that may be contributing to your pain
- Therapeutic exercises and stretches
- Identification of ergonomic, training or lifestyle factors that may be contributing to neck dysfunction and other pre-existing symptoms
- Ergonomic and postural modifications to help prevent recurrence
- Methods to reduce inflammation including icing certain structures, and/or natural or pharmaceutical anti-inflammatory medications.
Prognosis following Neck Pain
Your prognosis following an episode of neck pain will depend on:
- The cause(s),
- Whether you follow the treatment plan created by your osteopath,
- Whether you follow the specific advice to manage immediate painful symptoms and
- How you avoid maintaining or irritating factors.
Once the experience of pain has been solved the important work begins to take steps to strengthen and fortify your body through stretches, strengthening exercises, and ergonomic/lifestyle advice. Often a course of postural rehabilitation is required to prevent relapse of neck pain which is common when treatment does not go beyond treating immediate symptoms by looking at and diffusing causative factors.
During your course of maintenance and prevention your osteopath will take you through progressive exercise rehabilitation of increasing challenge and complexity.