You wake up in the morning and you can’t move your neck. You’re scared to get out of bed. What if this is permanent?
Neck pain can be debilitating.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a person who lives an active lifestyle or someone who spends most of their time at the desk.
An aching neck can quickly change your lifestyle for the worse.
We’ll discuss what neck pain is, what causes it, and how you can find relief.
A stiff neck affects your life in more ways than one. It causes a variety of symptoms that can reduce quality of life and make it difficult to work and carry out daily tasks.
Let’s explore some of the major signs of neck injury that can be felt throughout the body.
What causes neck pain?
- Stiff neck – weak muscles due to poor posture, during sleep or overexertion can cause stiffness.
- Chronic neck pain – headache, muscle tightness, spasms and decreased range of motion. If pain worsens or is caused by injury, seek medical attention.
- Whiplash – stiffness, pain in the neck and shoulders. Headaches and muscle spasms. Injury occurs after your head moves back or forward with force.
- Herniated Disc – the inner portion of a disc in spine ruptures. Can cause aching in the neck, numbness or weakness which can radiate into the arm and hands.
- Muscle Spasm – a sudden, often sharp pain, or tightening in your neck muscles.
- Intervertebral Disc Degeneration – breakdown of discs which separate spinal bones which can cause pain and weakness.
- Postural Dysfunction – the way you sit, stand or lay down can put your spine and joints out-of-alignment. In turn, your muscles change and become unbalanced.
- TMD-TMJ – pain and discomfort in the muscles around your jaw joints.
- Cervical Radiculopathy – inflammation/damage to a cervical nerve root. Can lead to numbness, pain, or weakness in your neck or shoulder and throughout your arm.
Diagnosing neck pain
The first, and often most important part in diagnosing neck pain, is getting a medical history. Then, observe the patient’s movements and measure strength, and painful/provocative positions. Neck pain can commonly be preceded by a specific movement or injury, but tends to have an idiopathic cause compared to other areas of the body.
Your physical therapist will assess your neck at the joint, disc, muscular and nerve levels. This determines the specific cause and the areas of dysfunction that will guide your individualized treatment.
How an aching neck affects your work and life
You can feel stiff neck discomfort non-stop throughout the day. This happens whether you’re at your desk, driving, spending time with family, exercising or relaxing on your couch.
Pain is often present unless you’re properly positioned. Over time, your sore neck can affect focus and even lead to headaches. Both negatively affect work productivity and ability to help family or work around the house. Most exercises, especially any straining that involves the upper extremities, can bring about or exacerbate neck pain.
Getting stiff neck relief with physical therapy
Neck pain benefits from modality treatments. For example, manual therapy helps release the tension we tend to hold in our necks.
Your physical therapist assesses your pain and develops an exercise program. The program focuses on cervical stability, postural strength and improving your range of motion. This allows for relief from pain and a full return to work, leisure and your daily requirements.