Neck pain is very common. More than half of all people develop neck pain at some time in their life. Neck pain can occur at any age but is more common as you get older. You may have pain when you wake up or it can start following an accident. Sometimes, it comes on gradually for no apparent reason.
As more people spend their working day at a computer or sat in an office, the neck and shoulder muscles can become stiff or overused.
Other factors such as stress and tiredness can contribute to on-going neck pain as can osteoarthritis (age-related wear and tear) in the neck. This can, in turn, cause not only muscular pain from the neck into the shoulder but also some stiffness in moving the neck.
You may have some or all of the following symptoms:
It is important to take any medication prescribed by your GP on a regular basis.
Use a wheat pack heated in the microwave or a hot water bottle wrapped in a towel. Place the heat around your neck and shoulders for 10 to 15 minutes as often as you like during the day. Try to relax sitting or lying down, while you place the heat on. Avoid the use of hot packs if you are unable to detect the difference between hot and cold over the affected area. Be careful not to have the hot pack too hot as it is easy to get burnt.
Sit well back in the chair and place a rolled up towel in the small of your back. Sitting comfortably may reduce the strain on muscles and ligaments.
It is important to exercise your neck in order to keep the joints mobile and the muscles flexible.
Move your neck through its full pain free range forwards, backwards and turning to the left and the right. Do this five – ten times. Do not push into pain and stop if you feel dizzy.
Often people with neck pain find it beneficial to place a small sized towel rolled up lengthways inside the pillowcase.
If you sleep on your side, try to make sure your head and neck are straight and in line with the rest of your spine. This may require one or two pillows depending on the thickness and firmness. It is better to keep the arm you are lying on in front of your chest.
When watching television make sure the screen is straight ahead of you so you can hold your head in a neutral position.
When reading or knitting, for example, avoid bending your head for long periods. Rest your arms on pillows for support or sit at a table. Try to regularly change positions every 20-30 minutes.
It is important that you maintain as good a posture as possible. For example if you work at a desk you should sit with a support in your lower back and sit well under the work surface. Ensure the desk is at the correct height for you (approximately at elbow height).
When using a computer, ensure your wrists and hands are in a relaxed position. Make sure your computer screen is at eye level and straight in front of you. Try to have an organised work station so that you are not having to reach for things.
When using the telephone, never hold it between your neck and shoulder as this will overstrain your neck.
You can self-refer into community physiotherapy services. Simply call 0207 871 0545 to make an appointment. Your initial contact with one of our chartered physiotherapists may be over the phone, where you will either be given advice on appropriate treatment, or a face-to-face consultation will be arranged.
Should you wish to speak to your GP first, simply make an appointment with your local practice. If your GP refers you, one of our patient care advisers will contact you within 48 hours to arrange an appointment.