Neck pain is very common and can be debilitating. Your head houses vital nerves, connecting the brain with the rest of your body. The cervical spine (neck), also carries the weight on the skull, which is rather heavy. Common causes of neck pain include; muscles, ligaments, cervical disc's, nerves, joints. Neck pain is a common presentation to Osteopaths. The main symptoms of neck pain can include; pain, pins and needles, reduce movement, headaches and pain radiating from the neck.
Activities that can cause neck pain include:
Abnormal postures- This might be due to your sleeping position or related to your occupation. Where possible, try change your posture. Some occupations do require you to have your neck at odd angles, but try take frequent breaks, roll your shoulders and stretch your neck. Frequent breaks allow the neck muscles and ligaments to relax, blood flow to return to the area and help decrease pain. Your sleeping position can be hard to control as you are asleep, but sleeping on your side, with your head well supported is the most desirable. To try to teach yourself this position, start off sleeping with a pillow in front and behind you, to avoid you rolling over. Sleeping on your tummy, means your neck must be twisted to one side, this strains the neck.
Repetitive strains- This refers to repeating the same movement over and over. For example a painter looking up and down whilst painting a ceiling. The repetitive movement can cause micro-trauma and pain. Again try avoid these activities where possible, or modify them to avoid any damage. Where this isn't possible eg occupation, frequent breaks can help. These breaks don't need to be for extended periods but enough to give your neck a quick break.
Sustained postures- How many hours a day do you sit without moving much? As most occupations these days are computer and desk related jobs, long periods of sitting are required. Taking frequent breaks, every 20 minutes, allows you to reset not only your physical body but mind too. I reccommend getting up, moving and sitting back down, every 20 minutes. This allows you to reset your posture, give your muscles a stretch and circulation a reset.
Motor vehicle crashes- Especially over this holiday season there has been a lot of crashes. Whether they are minor or major this can effect your neck. One of the most common injuries is whiplash, effecting the muscles, ligaments and joints of the neck. Always see a health professional to ensure no injury has been obtained.
Stress- Stress is a part of our everyday lives. It is how we deal with it that defines us. Stress is often held in the neck and shoulder muscles. Do you hunch your shoulders when your stressed? Finding your shoulders up by your ears? Often a common cause of neck pain that can be overlooked yet very important to resolving neck pain. Stress can effect the body in many ways; neck pain, upset stomachs, anxiety, sleeping issues and so on. It is important to identify the cause of stress and find ways best suited to you to deal with it.
Ways of dealing with neck pain:
Stretches- Simple and an effective way to relieve neck pain. Try tipping your head to one side, using your hand to gently guide your head and pull the opposite shoulder away. Your should feel a gentle stretch along the side of your neck. Move your head slightly forwards and backwards to get different parts of the muscle.
Shoulder rolls- First relax your shoulders, then start by moving your shoulders forwards in a circulation motion. Do this movement slowly, taking deep slows breaths. You can repeat this motion backwards as well.
How Osteopathy can help
A common presentation to Osteopaths is neck pain. Osteopaths treat holistically, which means they treat more than just the symptoms. This means looking at the neck, back, shoulders, hips to the feet, aiming to identify any other areas of the body that could be influencing your neck pain. Your osteopath will also discuss with you any other factors of your life that could be influencing your neck pain eg sleep, occupation, stress, diet. Treatment involves soft tissue massage, joint manipulation and articulation and tailored advice suited to the client.