Acute Neck Pain

This page deals with acute neck pain, Acute simply means “has happened recently” while chronic means “has existed for a long time” (usually over 3 months, but often much longer). So this is the page for you if your neck pain has recently flared up.

The good news! Most neck pain resolves (relatively) quickly, approximately within 6 weeks or so and is often not an indication of something more serious.

What Causes The Pain

As is often the case with the body, neck pain can arise from many different sources, such as irritable soft tissue like muscles which are being over worked; irritability or inflammation of joints in the neck, or irritation of neural structures such as nerves (the well known “trapped” or “pinched” nerve).

Modern physiotherapy places less emphasis on what structure might actually be sore. In the past you might have been given a diagnosis of a disk bulge or facet joint irritation, but this can often lead to a misleading picture of why your neck is sore. Advances in research have shown that while, for example, a disk problem may well be a cause of pain in some people, many people in the population can have those same changes and be completely symptom free. This means, that in modern physiotherapy we concentrate on what works best to reduce your pain.

What you can expect from your physio.

During your assessment we will carefully assess your muscles, ligaments and range of movement perform a thorough neurological exam to rule out serious neck injury or the need to seek medical advice for further investigations such as an CT or MRI scan.

We will then run through a series of tests to help identify what style of treatment will work best for you and your neck. With this information we will provide you with an understanding of your condition and from there will provide you with a variety of treatment options.

You will then decide on a treatment pathway with your physio, and embark on a programme which will draw from multiple areas of physiotherapy such as short term relief form manual therapy (sometimes called hands on) and longer term exercise and pain modification plan. You may even get advice on sleeping, diet and stress management as they can often form a large part of the pain presentation and help with pain relief.

Don’t Panic

People often worry about their whether their posture is good or poor or about structures in the neck such as the spinal cord, nerves and disks. We would encourage you not to worry as this can sometimes make you feel worse. Pain is often inconsistent with severity, in that you can have very high levels of pain for what might ultimately be a small issue. Often these do not need a scan and may simply be due to a less problematic (but no less painful) issue such as a muscle spasm or strain. Even alarming symptoms like pins and needles, numbness, weakness or radicular pain (this is pain which radiates down the arm) can resolve with a course of physiotherapy. We would always encourage you to visit for an assessment if you are ever in doubt.

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