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Advice and information for people with neck pain

Most people can expect to experience some neck pain in their lifetime. It is not always possible to identify the exact cause of neck pain but most of the time it is not serious and for the majority of people it should not seriously interfere with normal activities. However, if you have suffered serious injury, or the pain is very severe or going down the arm you should seek advice from a health professional.

The majority of neck pain will have some of these common features:

  • Pain around the neck region that may spread to the shoulder or shoulder blade area or towards the base of the skull
  • Associated muscle stiffness or spasm
  • Pain aggravated by particular movements, postures and activities and relieved by others
  • Associated headaches
  • Restricted range of neck movement
  • Tenderness in neck and shoulder muscles

What will a Chartered Physiotherapist do?

A Chartered Physiotherapist will:

  • Perform a detailed assessment, taking a history of your symptoms and a physical examination.
  • Give a diagnosis of the exact site of symptoms and the underlying causes.
  • Plan a treatment programme to suit your needs.
  • Your Chartered Physiotherapist will monitor your symptoms at each visit and will progress your treatment programme accordingly. If appropriate, your physiotherapist will liaise with your doctor, hospital consultant or other health care professional. You will be advised on return to work, sport, daily activities and given advice on preventing recurrence of your pain.

What are the treatments?

Specific treatment of spinal pain could include some of the following:

  • Manual techniques – manipulation, traction or mobilisation of the joints in the spine.
  • Soft tissue techniques – massage, frictions, trigger point therapy, acupressure and stretching.
  • Stretching, strengthening and postural exercises – a specifically tailored exercise programme targeting your problems. Also, group exercise interventions may be appropriate such as Pilates or the Alexander technique.
  • Electrotherapy – ultrasound, interferential, TENS, laser or electrical stimulation may help speed up healing and reduce pain.
  • Hydrotherapy.
  • Biomechanical assessment and prescription of orthotics (customised insoles).
  • Prescription and fitting – of collars, pillows, spinal supports, lumbar rolls and corrective seating.
    Assess and give advice – on ergonomics (working postures) to reduce unnecessary load on your spine.


Helpful Hints for neck pain

  • Exercise can help your neck pain.The right sort of exercise, as advised by a physiotherapist, may make a big difference.
  • Be aware that stress and tension can have an effect on the pain and tightness in the neck muscles. Practice relaxation to reduce tension across these muscles.
  • There is no good or bad posture, just what is comfortable for you at the time. If you spend long periods of time in prolonged positions, such as sitting at a desk, make sure to take regular breaks.
  • Avoid sitting for prolonged periods of time.
  • If you spend a lot of time working at a computer it is a good idea to have your work-station assessed to ensure it suits you
  • Take regular breaks if driving for long periods of time.


Useful links and resources

ISCP Leaflet: Physiotherapy and care of your neck



The content on this page is provided for general information purposes only and is not meant to replace a physiotherapy or medical consultation.

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