Chronic Neck Pain Treatment
An article by Jack Day – Elite Myotherapist
A number of patients present to our clinics with complaints of chronic neck pain or discomfort. Commonly accompanied with very limited range to one side and headaches to either the base of the skull or spilling over the top of the head to the temple region.
A lot of the time, patients will complain of sleeping on their neck badly and waking up with symptoms in the morning. It is hypothesized that during sleep there is increased inflammation and with the lack of movement occurring as you sleep, this can potentially cause an issue for the effected regions of the neck or shoulder.
The cause of chronic neck pain – Most people with chronic neck pain do not have any damage to their spine. The pain comes from the muscles, ligaments and joints. More persistent neck pain may also be associated with arthritis of the facet joints and degeneration of the discs.
The most common cause of chronic neck pain in the neck is due to dysfunction of the facet joints. These are the small articulation joints at the back of the spine. When one of the joints becomes irritated it usually results is muscle spasm in the area. Pain may be caused by either the primary facet joint irritation or the secondary muscle spasm or a combination of the two.
Facet joint irritation may result from trauma, such as a whiplash injury or from being held in sustained positions, such as when painting a ceiling or with postural conditions.
In a large number of cases, chronic neck pain is caused from a misalignment in posture, which places the neck under an increased load.
These areas have most likely been under increase stress/load over a period of time, possibly due to the increased hours you have been doing at your desk, or poor posture on the couch! In saying this, posture, correct activation and stabilisation of your neck and shoulders is unparalleled in reducing neck and shoulder pain episodes.
We use a combination of soft tissue massage, joint mobilisation, dry needling and exercise prescription, concentrating on fine movements with correct muscle activation. In acute phases a referral to your general practitioner may be required for the use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory’s.
The Aim & Desired Outcome
Reduce muscular spasm throughout the neck, shoulder and shoulder blade.
This spasm will be impeding movement and function as a protective mechanism, not allowing for full range of movement and can be accompanied by exceptional pain.
Increase the articulation, function and fluidity of the effected joints.
Improving this will help to increase your range and reduce the chance of blocking movement.
Have a positive effect on the nervous system which helps to decrease or de-amplify pain.
We know with reduced pain, other symptoms such as muscle spasm improve. Muscular guarding is one of the body’s defensive mechanisms to help protect you from doing more damage.
Improving overall function and mobility.
Through identifying stiff and ill-functioning parts of the chain, we can help to reduce compensation done by other regions that could have led to the initial damage.
Stabilisation and posture!
Just like we talk about having a supportive “core” for our lower backs, a similar situation applies to the neck. Understanding how to use this is paramount to avoiding subsequent episodes.
It should be noted, pain or dysfunction throughout the jaw can also lead to neck pain and headaches. In some cases it is a causative issue that can predispose to a painful episode due to its close proximity.
How you can help your neck
To increase strength and flexibility. Regularly stretching the neck and shoulder muscles can considerably reduce reoccurring neck pain
Be aware of your posture
Consider your posture, particularly when seated, such as sitting at a desk for long periods of time. Please see our computer/desk article for more information.
Take regular breaks
Sitting or standing for long periods of time, take regular breaks to change the position of your joints and loosen your muscles.
Learn some relaxation techniques to reduce stress levels and subsequent muscle tension.
Try self massage, heat or cold applications and gentle exercise.
Check your sleeping posture
On average we spend 30% of our lives sleeping so it is important to sleep with a good posture as well. Sleeping on too many pillows can aggravate a sore neck. Its best to try sleep with one good pillow, keeping the neck in neutral plane. Try to avoid sleeping on your stomach.
If you or someone you know has ongoing neck pain or has experienced episodes of neck pain where movement has been limited, the above causative factors could be involved. Feel free to contact us to discuss how one of our Myotherapists could help resolve your neck pain.